Opposition Says Government Should Not Have Lifted Nation-Wide Lockdown

HRPP press conference Sat 29 Jan 2022. 📷 Ganasavea Manuia Tafeaga.

Sunday 30 January 2022, Apia Samoa. Deputy leader of the opposition, Lauofo Fonotoe Luafesili Pierre Lauofo says it is too early to lift Samoa’s lockdown because the omicron variant of the coronavirus is often not detected by tests for up to two weeks.

“The country should remain in lockdown for another week, or even two,” said the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) deputy leader at a press conference on Saturday. “The reports I have read say omicron can take two to three weeks before it shows up on tests.”

Lauofo Fonotoe Luafesili Pierre Lauofo and Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi. Sat 29 Jan 2022. 📷 Ganasavea Manuia Tafeaga.

“We should have waited until the 27 cases recover, or until they return negative tests,” Lauofo added.

Lauofo said the number of covid-19 cases for Samoa was too high, and there was a chance the numbers could still increase. The HRPP also casted doubt on whether the virus had entered the community. “How do we know for sure?” he asked.

“The government has been too haste in their decision to lift the lockdown”. “Ua vavevave le Malo i le tatalaina o vavao..”

Lauofo was joined by HRPP party secretary, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, and former Minister of Public Enterprise (MPE), Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell who both echoed Fonotoe’s position on the government’s handling of Samoa’s covid situation.

“If HRPP were in power, the lockdown would not have been lifted,” said Lautafi.

Samoa went into a 48-hour lockdown last Saturday January 22 after 15 passengers from a Brisbane repatriation flight tested positive for covid-19.

At the time, Prime Minister Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa said Cabinet had considered and approved the advice from Samoa’s National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) to elevate Samoa’s Alert Level to Level 3 status, “Red or High Risk.

“Cabinet has decided to exercise and impose measures that will further enhance the security and protection of everyone from the virus, and to ensure the risk of a likely community transmission is minimised to the extent possible”

When five nurses monitoring the then 15 cases in isolation tested positive a few days later, Samoa’s total went to 20, and Cabinet extended the lockdown for a further three days. In that time another seven passengers tested positive, taking Samoa’s count to 27.

Samoa’s Cabinet lifted the lockdown on Friday January 28 on the basis of NEOC’s advice there was still no evidence of a community transmission, and all affected persons are being closely monitored in managed isolation. The NEOC also confirmed that all other frontline staff, other than the 5 nurses, were repeatedly returning negative tests.

On Sunday afternoon a further three positive cases were announced taking Samoa’s count to 30.

Samoa went into Alert Level 2 on Friday 28 January for a period of 14 days. A much welcomed decision for Samoa’s private sector employers and workers who were not earning during the nation-wide lockdown(

Under Level 2 restrictions, the start of the school year has been postponed and children under 12 are not allowed in public places. Government and business services are open with restrictions on hours and group meetings maxed at 30. Bars, restaurants, gyms, gambling events and sports are also banned under Level 2.

At the time of the announcement the Prime Minister said Cabinet would continue to monitor Samoa’s covid situation over the 14 days, and issue an update should the alert levels need to be revisited.