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WHO helps Samoa and Tokelau to prepare for COVID-19

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WHO continues to support Samoa and Tokelau with preparations for COVID-19. Both countries received infrared thermometers to assist with screening at ports of entry and healthcare facilities. They also received personal protective equipment (PPE) including medical masks, gloves and surgical gowns for doctors, nurses and patients to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

With Samoa on the cusp of declaring the end of its measles outbreak, having achieved a 46-day window since the last infectious period of measles and no new cases nor related deaths, the twin-island of approximately 200 000 people is now preparing for COVID-19.

As of 21 February 2020, 95% of the 1 868 persons who were admitted to hospital had recovered and returned home while approximately 134 499 persons, representing 95% of the eligible population, were vaccinated. Samoans are still reeling, however, from the 83 deaths due to the outbreak and affected families are receiving psychosocial support from the Ministry of Health.

The Health Emergency Operations Committee (HEOC) established to manage the measles outbreak response, which has now shifted gears to COVID-19, considers it therefore of utmost importance to prevent and mitigate its impact on an already stressed population. As of 6 March 2020, there were no suspected or confirmed cases. The HEOC, a 40+ multidisciplinary team chaired by Leausa Dr Take Naseri, Director General, Ministry of Health, has been monitoring the global and regional spread of COVID-19 and has put in place several prevention measures.

This includes screening at all ports of entry for persons with flu-like symptoms, tracing their movements from affected countries and providing prevention advice to all inbound and outbound travellers. Various WHO guidelines - clinical, surveillance, patient management, isolation, etc - are also being implemented.

The Ministry also continues to sensitize the public on how to effectively stop the spread of COVID-19 through the adoption of proper handwashing and coughing etiquette. These messages are available on the Ministry of Health website and Facebook pages, TV and Radio. sensitization sessions have been held with community leaders and more sessions are planned with other sectors including workplaces and schools.

Dr Rasul Baghirov, WHO Representative for Samoa, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau noted that “all countries under the country office’s purview will continue to receive technical support to build their capacity in clinical management, risk assessments and risk communications as part of COVID-19 country preparations.”

Tokelau signalled its priorities including the need for more public information on COVID-19, prevention measures, and information packages for schools and at ports of entry. WHO has conducted sensitization sessions with Samoa and Tokelau on risk communications and will continue to support in this area.

*For queries please contact Dr Rasul Baghirov – *baghirovr@who.int