Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi announced on Monday, December 2, that under the state of emergency (SoE), public and private sectors will close nationwide from 07:00 (local time) on Thursday, December 5, through to 17:00 on Friday, December 6, in order to assist with the door-to-door measles mass vaccination campaign. During this period, no vehicles are allowed on the road unless it belongs to an exempt public sector service or is being used to seek medical assistance or law enforcement. Inter-island travel between Upolu and Savaii is also prohibited unless it is for the purpose of seeking medical assistance or scheduled travel abroad. Members of the public are being asked to remain at home and those who have not been vaccinated are asked to tie a red cloth or flag to the front of their homes near the road to help identify themselves to vaccination teams. While civil servants supplying water and electricity, as well as emergency, law enforcement, civil aviation, and communication services are expected to continue working throughout the closure period, widespread business and transportation disruptions are anticipated.
As of 12:30 on Wednesday, the government confirmed 171 new measles cases in the last 24-hours. Officials also confirmed 60 measles-related deaths and 4052 confirmed cases - the majority being children aged 4 and under - since the epidemic began in mid-October 2019. Vaccination against the disease is a mandatory legal requirement. Ministry of Health officials reported on December 2 that they have successfully vaccinated 58,150 people since the Mass Vaccination Campaign began on Wednesday, November 20. Further spread of the disease is expected in the immediate term.
The Samoan Ministry of Health declared a nationwide measles epidemic on October 16 followed by a state of emergency on November 15. Government officials ordered the indefinite closure of all schools, including high schools and universities, from November 17 and has forbidden public gatherings of children up to the age of 17. The state of emergency also stipulates that no child under the age of 18 can visit any medical facility unless they require medical attention.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that typically affects mostly children. It is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth, or throat of infected persons. Symptoms of measles are usually a high fever, which begins approximately ten to 12 days after exposure to the virus and lasts four to seven days. A runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck. Over the course of about three days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for five to six days and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus (within a range of seven to 18 days). A vaccine is available.
Individuals in Samoa are advised to keep abreast of the situation, obey all instructions issued by the local authorities, ensure their measles vaccination is up to date (including booster shots), and to contact their doctor with any questions or concerns. Anyone experiencing the above symptoms is urged to seek immediate medical attention.