Something Is Terribly Wrong When Samoa Turns Away Its Own Citizens

Its action means that it has abdicated its responsibility and dumped it on Fiji to screen Samoan citizens.
12 Feb 2020 11:52
Something Is Terribly Wrong When Samoa Turns Away Its Own Citizens
Faleolo International Airport


It was morally wrong for Samoa to refuse entry to eight of its citizens at Faleolo International Airport on Sunday night as its coronavirus watch intensified.

They were part of 19 people who were returned to Nadi where they are being quarantined at The Grand Melanesian Hotel.

Its action means that it has abdicated its responsibility and dumped it on Fiji to screen Samoan citizens. That is unacceptable and tantamounts to dereliction of duty by a sovereign state.

Why could it not set up its own quarantine facilities to check its citizens and others whether they are carrying the virus? Instead, it conveniently shifts the responsibility to Fiji.

Its action demonstrates that Samoa does not have the capacity to quarantine people and conduct the necessary tests. Also, something seems terribly wrong when Samoa turns away its own citizens.

It’s understood that its hardline approach is a reaction to the earlier measles outbreak that killed 79 people last year, most of them children aged four years old and under. The fact was that the outbreak was poorly managed by the Samoan Ministry of Health.

By the time it woke up the measles had spread quickly. From this one extreme the Samoan government has swung to the other extreme, trying to make sure that the deadly virus does not reach the island nation.

While it is its sovereign right to impose measures it sees essential for the protection of its people, what about the eight who are at a Nadi hotel? Aren’t they entitled as citizens to the same rights to be protected on their home soil instead of being quarantined in a foreign land?

If it continues with this policy, Samoa would indirectly turn Nadi into a quarantine centre. It is not fair because it’s Samoa’s responsibility.

There’s not much we can do about it here than face the challenge of putting through virus suspects through the stringent tests.

In a way, we are building our capacity and resilience to handle an outbreak, if it does happen.

So we become better prepared in terms of experience than Samoa.

Five of the Samoans in Nadi are patients returning home after medical treatment in India. The other three were caregivers of the patients under the Samoan Government’s medical referral scheme.

They stopped over in Singapore on transit on the way home, unaware that Singapore, Japan and Thailand had been added to a list of high risk nations. Travellers from these countries are prevented from arriving without 14 days of self-quarantine in a country without the virus first.

Hypothetically, if Fiji was not virus free, where would the Samoans go? Back to Singapore?

Passengers enroute to Samoa would be transiting through Nadi International Airport and flying Fiji Airways.

We have a shared responsibility to safeguard our aviation and tourism industries. With this in mind we should all be grateful that the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services stands ready to handle the virus if it eventually gets here.

Samoa should appreciate Fiji’s efforts and contributions.

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