Samoa’s Prime Minister has announced a government shutdown in response to the measles epidemic that has claimed the lives of 53 people in the Pacific island nation.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi announced during a press conference on Monday that all branches of government, except the nation’s water authority and electric power corporation, would be closed on Thursday and Friday.
The two-day shutdown will see government workers recruited to help carry out a mass vaccination campaign.
About 58,000 people in the country have been vaccinated since November 20.
“Let us work together to encourage and convince those who do not believe that vaccinations are the only answer to the epidemic,” Mr Malielegaoi said.
“Measles is not a new disease to Samoa and rarely claim lives. If a suspected case is presented early for treatment, full recovery should be expected.”
Mr Malielegaoi added “no traditional healers” could cure measles, and people should be wary of promises of alternative cures.
Some claim high doses of Vitamin A are an alternative to vaccination, but experts say that is not based on evidence and it cannot prevent infection.
Samoa declared a measles epidemic in October after the first deaths were reported.
The Ministry of Health has confirmed 3728 measles cases since the outbreak started.
“There were 198 recorded [measles cases] in the last 24 hours,” a statement from the ministry said.
“To date, 53 measles-related deaths have been recorded, with five fatalities in the last 24 hours.”
There have been confirmed cases in neighbouring countries including Australia, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand, where the outbreak is believed to have started.
Australia and New Zealand have dispatched medical teams to support Samoan local hospitals.