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Safety code and human rights violations for quarantined residents raised

DYWA building
Gov’t officials confirm back doors of DYWA building are nailed shut

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Local resident, Bryan Jackson has threatened to take the Department of Health to court over an allegation of violations of “safety codes” and “human rights” of travelers repatriated from Samoa that are quarantined at the Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs (DYWA) building in Pago Pago.

In an email letter Wednesday night, Jackson wrote to Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua saying he was informed on Tuesday by an individual who is currently in quarantine at the DYWA building that “all of the doors but one were nailed shut, and the only way in and out of the building... is now through the front entrance.”

“Please be informed that if this is true, this is a violation of safety codes not to mention human rights,” said Jackson, who filed one of the two lawsuits pending in the High Court against the governor and ASG over the alleged violation of civil and constitutional rights stemming from the governor’s COVID-19 declarations.

“Not only is this a fire hazard but the DYWA building is located in a tsunami flood zone, and such a situation — blocking all but a single exit to the DYWA building — poses a severe health and safety hazard,” Jackson wrote to Motusa.

According to Jackson, this practice is also a “clear violation” under provisions of local law — Quarantine and Isolation — which requires that individuals be quarantined in the least restrictive manner possible.

He points to a provision of the law A.S.C.A 13.0215 — which states that health director, or his designee, may order the isolation or quarantine of an individual or group of individuals in compliance with this section.

And the director shall adhere to the following conditions and principles when isolating or quarantining individuals or groups of individuals:

•     Isolation and quarantine must be by the least restrictive means necessary to prevent the spread of a contagious or possibly contagious disease to others and may include, but are not limited to, confinement to private homes or other private and public premises.

Jackson sought an explanation as to why DoH is alleged to have nailed shut all doors except for the main entrance.

Unless he gets a reply “immediately”, Jackson said he would file a petition with the Appellate Division of the High Court asking the “court to issue an order requiring DOH to appear and show cause as to why it shouldn't have to follow the legal requirements under local law in regards to isolation/quarantine of individuals and also any applicable building safety requirements.

Two government officials, who are aware of this issue, told Samoa News yesterday morning that the backdoors of the building were nailed shut, as concerns mounted over travelers exiting the building and going on to the nearby soccer field.

The officials say the doors to the main entrance remain open with security and those in quarantine can come through the front doors and out into the DYWA parking lot to walk around. The officials say that as of early Tuesday, about 65 travelers were quarantined at DYWA.

Meanwhile, the government — through the administrative code process — promulgated new emergency rules for quarantine and isolation of repatriated travelers from Samoa. The new rules were filed with the Secretary of American Samoa — who is also lieutenant governor — and became effective June 19th.

The rules, proposed and released publicly by the Attorney General’s Office, are promulgated in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. According to the AG’s Office, “ALL travelers that are part of the Repatriation efforts will be subject to these rules which will automatically expire October 17, 2020 unless made permanent or are superseded by a subsequent set of Emergency Rules.”

The rules cover issues such as — initiating quarantine and isolation; length of quarantine or isolation; as well as quarantine and isolation facilities.

Click on attachement to download the signed copy of the 5-page promulgated rules.