Samoa has confirmed its first case of the coronavirus – a case imported from Australia – after nearly 11 months of keeping Covid off its shores.
A positive case was detected in a 70-year-old Samoan who traveled to Apia from Melbourne, landing in the capital on a repatriation flight on November 13.
“We confirm that there is one positive case after we tested all 274 passengers in quarantine yesterday, given the end of their quarantine period tomorrow,” Samoan health ministry chief executive Leausa Dr Take Naseri said at a press conference on Friday. .
Earlier this week, there was significant confusion over whether Samoa had recorded any Covid-19 cases.
A sailor on the same flight back to Samoa initially tested positive, but this was later inconclusive.
“The sailor in his left nostril is positive and on his right negative,” Samoan Prime Minister Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi said on television.
Naseri said the 70-year-old positive case and his wife had been transferred to the Covid-19 isolation ward at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole II Hospital.
“His wife is negative. She has an underlying condition, but currently, she has no symptoms, no fever, no cough, and no symptoms such as pneumonia and flu. “
Naseri said health care staff, hotel employees and airport workers had been very wary of potential interactions with passengers currently under quarantine.
Samoa has now shifted to alert level 1 on its national risk matrix, with the public being asked to practice social distancing and wear face masks.
After months of holding back the virus from the archipelago’s coasts, the confirmation of positive cases has raised feelings of anxiety, if not panic, in Samoa’s capital. Security guards outside the government building asked people to wear masks, and share hand sanitization – a lifestyle change that has been recognized around the world for months now, but new to Samoans.
Many Pacific countries have a fragile public health system, and a population with significant rates of comorbidities. There are still concerns that an uncontrolled outbreak could quickly overwhelm any medical response.
But the isolation has the devastated Pacific economy, leading to calls from business leaders, especially in tourism-dependent countries, to relaxed boundaries. The government, too, has been torn between having to repatriate thousands of stranded citizens abroad and keeping their islands free of the virus.
Siligatusa Pa’ipa’i Fatialofa, mayor of the village of Tanugamanono on the outskirts of Apia and a security officer at the airport, said he was shocked by the news of a positive case in Samoa.
“I am very concerned and worried about my village. I just want to go home for my wife and children. I will urge my village to respect the public health notices and rules set by our government, so that we stay safe. “
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