Samoa residents call for closure of entry into the country due to COVID-19

By Jessica Tyson

Residents in Samoa are calling for their Government to stop entry into the country after the first suspected case of the coronavirus was announced there this week, and the first case in Fiji confirmed on Thursday.

The expected patient in Samoa flew in from New Zealand last week and their test results for the suspected will remain unknown for up to five days.

Ministers in Samoa met today to create a plan of action. Te Ao spoke to TV1 Samoa spokesperson Renee Iosefa about how the community has reacted to the news.

"Ko te whakaaro nui o te iwi i konei, me aukati a Hāmoa , me aukati ngā waka rererangi e tae mai ana ki Hāmoa. Koira te tino hiahia o konei, she says.

“The main concern of the people here is to stop Samoa and stop any aircraft arriving in Samoa. That's what we really want here, she says.

"E mōhio ana mātou katoa, otirā te iwi o konei, i te ngaukino o te māuiuitanga nā runga i te measles epidemic i pākia kino ki Hāmoa. Nā reira, i tino mataara mātou."

“We all know, the people here have suffered from the trauma of the measles epidemic in Samoa. Therefore we are very vigilant.”

The Ministry was first made aware yesterday that it could take up to 20 working days to receive the results. However, due to the urgency of the request from the Ministry, they have been advised by laboratories in both Australia and New Zealand that the turnaround time for testing samples from Samoa will be between three to five days.

"E mōhio tonu ana mātou anō hoki i konei, kāore mātou te nui o ngā rauemi pērā hoki i a Ahitereria, i a Aotearoa."

“We also know that we don’t have as many resources as in Australia and New Zealand."

Confirmed case in Fiji

Fiji's Health Minister Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete made the announcement of the case in Fiji in a post on Twitter yesterday.

“There is a single confirmed case of COVID19 in Lautoka that was imported from a patient who had recently travelled abroad,” he wrote.

Waqainabete says the man was immediately isolated and remains under careful medical supervision.

"Our team is identifying all those who he was in contact with. There are no locally transmitted cases in Fiji, but we are vastly expanding containment measures. Details are being finalised.

Action from leaders in Aotearoa

The Ministry of Health in New Zealand is monitoring the situation in the Pacific. 

The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said in a press conference on Thursday, “We're looking very closely at the situation in the Pacific, traffic both to the Pacific and back this way so that is something that's under active consideration.”

A core group of Pacific community leaders in Aotearoa is also being set up to work with the Ministry of Pacific People to stop the spread.

Chairman of the Pacific Leadership Forum Teleiai Edwin Puni  said, “We are hoping that that will be achieved by assistance from the Government to set up a communication infrastructure that will be in church services maybe even choir practices and limit our congregated in one area in big numbers.”

If Samoa is to have a case test positive then churches will be required to stop all church services in the country immediately, says Iosefa.

“Ko te tono o ngā hāhi i konei me aukati i a Hāmoa . Heoi anō i te otinga ake mā te kāwanatanga tērā , ka whakatau anōhoki mō tōku ake whānau kua whakatau te kura o aku tamariki.”

“Churches have requested that the Samoan border be shut down. The government has the final say on this for the wellbeing of my family and their education.”