APIA: 30 June 2009 – The CEO, of the Health Ministry, Palanitina Tupuimatagi Toelupe has confirmed that there are now two confirmed cases of swine Flu in the country, and these H1N1 positives cases are those who travelled into the country from overseas. She did not elaborate but assured the public not to panic as so far there has been no confirmed case of local people being infected with the virus.
The Ministry of Health will continue to screen arriving passengers to Samoa despite information from the World Health Organisation that border screening is not effective to keep the swine flu virus out and worries that the screening may negatively impact the tourism industry.
The CEO of the Ministry of Health, Palanitina Tupuimatagi Toelupe says Tourists and visitors are most welcome but new diseases they inadvertently bring with them are not. The comments come after nine weeks where a total of 37, 000 passengers and crew have undergone screening at Faleolo International Airport and Matautu Wharf since 27th April. It also comes as the health and tourism industries struggle to balance their respective mandates for the protection of public health safety, and fostering a much needed income source for the country.
Palanitina pointed out that many of the Pacific islands and more developed countries are screening against swine flu. Two cruise ships arrived within the last week carrying almost 5000 passengers and crew. A total of 2970 passengers were screened from
both ships. The vast majority passed the screening and went on to enjoy the sights and hospitality of Samoa.
Eighty-four passengers however did not pass the screening and were asked to go back on board. The refusal of admission has been taken by some as being a harsh.
The Ministry of Health says its hard-line approach is based on the recent refusal of a cruise ship to dock at New Caledonia. Information shared between the health ministries in the Pacific, says the health authorities of New Caledonia were less than impressed with inaccurate information declared by a previous cruise ship’s captain and medical officer which failed to declare the presence of people with influenza like symptoms already on board. Several passengers were later found to be infected with the H1N1 virus on arrival in Australia, after they had already explored one of New Caledonia’s many islands.
Palanitina says that there is always room for improvement but the Ministry will not compromise its overall aim to protect public health and safety in Samoa.