Gov Lemanu fully supports extended quarantine at ASG’s Hawaii site
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In a news release last Friday afternoon, Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga, gave his support for the extended 12-days quarantine — from the original 10-day quarantine period — at the White Sands Hotel in Honolulu for the now 161 passengers on the first repatriation flight from the U.S., that has been rescheduled from Jan. 29th to Feb. 1st.
It was revealed during a news conference last week Wednesday that five-passengers on the flight, tested positive of COVID-19 while in quarantine — which was originally for a 10-day period.
(Read story in this issue that casts doubt on the number of positive cases and whether or not the tests were ‘false’ positives.)
Health Department acting director Motusa Tuileama Nua told senators during his confirmation hearing last Thursday about the five passengers, who tested positive and that the first repatriation flight has been pushed to Feb. 1st.
Additionally those testing positive have been taken off the first repatriation flight for possible inclusion on the next planned flight, which as yet is still to be confirmed. (See Samoa News edition Jan. 21st and Jan. 22nd for more details.)
"I am in full support of all the necessary measures that the [COVID-19] Task Force must introduce and implement in order to ensure the safety of our returning residents,” the governor is quoted in the news release from the Governor’s Office as saying.
“As a result of identifying these positive cases early on in the quarantine process, it is a testament that the Task Force testing and swift response measures are working as planned,” he said.
According to the governor, he will continue to give the task force the Administration's “full support and provide the necessary resources to bring our people home safely."
"I am aware that this extension affects us all mentally and physically, but I ask you to be patient, continue to pray, and stay hopeful,” he said, and points out that the task force’s decision to extend the quarantine period in Honolulu “was a decision that would allow the capture of necessary data and to guarantee the isolation of any cases with a larger threat, the latest COVID19 strain.
According to the news release, the task force had to take necessary precautions to avoid any setbacks in “our efforts of a successful repatriation flight.”
Additionally, local residents are traveling to Hawaii from all across the nation, thus increasing the risk. Therefore they must be quarantined for two extra days to allow ample time for proper and continuous testing.
"As I mentioned in my repatriation press conference [last] week, we need to expect that our task force will carry out its full due diligence in helping to reunite our residents with families and just to come home,” Lemanu said.
“I highly encourage all citizens of American Samoa also to do their due diligence. Educate yourselves on how to prepare yourselves adequately. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, and practice social distancing,” he concluded.
Upon arrival in Pago Pago the passengers will undergo the required 14-day quarantine at Tradewinds Hotel as well as COVID-19 testing.
There is no confirmation at press time as to when the second repatriation flight will occur, but ASG conducted last Friday a “drill” testing the local response for the first flight.
Samoa News observed police vehicles with blaring sirens heading — with at least two bus loads of passengers wearing face-mask — on the Ili’ili/Airport road towards Tradewinds, which was closed — starting Jan. 20th — until further notice.
The news release from the Governor’s Office comes amid social media postings questioning why the quarantine period have been extended to 12-days.
At the same time, some senators have increased their concerns on the repatriation flight, following the five passengers who tested COVID-19 positive and have — again — questioned whether this is the right time for such a flight when there is a spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths across the U.S.
New Zealand has long been touted by the world as a ‘safe’ haven from COVID-19 with its strong quarantine restrictions, resulting in the total number of active cases in New Zealand is 79 and the total number of confirmed cases is 1,927, to date.
The majority of confirmed cases are border cases, meaning they came in from outside countries. For example, eight new imported cases were reported on Sunday, according to RNZ. “The eight new cases over the past two days came from South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Ethiopia and India.”
In a previous update on Friday, Jan. 22nd, the Health Ministry reported nine new cases in managed isolation over the previous two days.
With quarantine, a strong tracking and contact program in place, New Zealand has been able to keep its community cases to almost none — the last case was reported in November last year.
However a recent report from New Zealand is that Health authorities are investigating reports of a community case of COVID-19 in Northland, NZ — a positive test result in a person who had departed from a NZ quarantine facility (MIQ).
As of Monday, Jan. 25th, RNZ reports that “two of the closest contacts of the woman who tested positive for COVID-19 in Northland after leaving managed isolation have tested negative.
“The 56-year-old woman traveled around parts of Northland and visited 30 businesses over nine days while unknowingly having coronavirus.
“COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Morning Report that the results for the woman's husband and hairdresser have since come back negative,” RNZ reported.
Hipkins said that genome sequencing was being completed on Monday to determine the source of the case.
He also said that before Christmas the government looked at whether longer quarantine periods and self-quarantine at home might be justified.
"The advice at that time was that wouldn't be justified — now obviously we keep that under review."
If the source of the virus showed it had a long incubation period, if it had been brought back from abroad, they might need to have another look at changes to quarantine.
If it was a result of cross-contamination within the isolation facility, authorities would look at fixing this.
More than 100,000 people had gone through the system so far, Hipkins said.
"Not one of them has subsequently taken COVID-19 out into the community with them."
He said a longer quarantine period would be an option only if the source of the case proved to be from abroad.
"There hasn't been a notable increase ... we're not seeing a big surge in the number of cases coming through."
There was a legal obligation on the government to allow New Zealanders to return home.
The policy was to try and keep planeloads of people together in managed isolation because transmission within planes has been a problem.
"If you were isolating out the people who came from the US, the UK or South Africa and then separated them out from others you might potentially increase the risk.
"The safest thing to do is to keep each planeload together because we know that is one of sources of infection is the plane journey itself."