Health Ministry CEO Siale ‘Akau’ola said yesterday the Ministry of Health had not responded to allegations made on social media to protect the privacy of the suspected Covid patient.
He said the Ministry had been very careful not to release any information that might identify the person.
He said the patient should have been advised not to release any information.
Dr ‘Akau’ola said information had been released through various channels, which had caused problems.
Prime Minister’s concerns
During yesterday’s press conference a journalist asked why the patient was allowed to contact other people on his mobile phone.
He said this was why there were concerns in the social media that the government should take the situation seriously because what had been leaked from the MIQ included information that was unreliable.
He asked Prime Minister Pōhiva Tuʻiʻonetoa to make a firm decision on the claim.
In his response, Tuʻiʻonetoa said he had just received a message on his mobile phone and was disappointed with what had been revealed in it.
The Prime Minister did not go into details on what he had received, but it appeared it was the video clip which was widely shared on Facebook purporting to show the patient talking to what appeared to be family members on a mobile phone while the conversation was being recorded on another phone.
In that conversation serious accusations were made against the government, including claims they were lying to the public when they said the patient had been taken to the Mu’a MIQ on Saturday. The patient said he was taken on Monday this week.
During the conversation the patient said he had tested negative, but the Ministry kept on telling the public the test was positive.
Dr ‘Akau’ola said two tests must be carried out to confirm a negative result. The patient’s second test would be tomorrow, Friday 5.
Kaniva News reported yesterday that Dr ‘Akau’ola said the patient had returned a weak positive result and had now tested negative.
The Prime Minister said: “I have listened to it (the recording of the conversation) and I did not like the attitude of their conversation and it said the patient was taken to Mu’a MIQ,” the Prime Minister said.
Tu’i’onetoa asked the meeting for his officials to clarify when did they take the patient to the MIQ.
“I want to confirm that”, he said.
Respect for the patient
The Minister of Health and her CEO were looking at each other before the CEO apologised to the Prime Minister and the conference, saying it was true the patient was taken on Monday not Saturday as he was advised, because of some paper work issues.
The CEO said the Ministry highly respected the patient.
“We wanted to protect his identity,” Dr ‘Akau’ola said.
“He is carrying a huge burden and the people’s concerns as well.
“As I look at it there was a weakness as he should have been given proper counselling advice for him not to release any information.
“However we learnt from this”, the CEO said.
This morning some family members of the patient were concerned that some posts on Facebook targeted the patient’s paternal side, whose surname is Pāongo.
The posts included one which said the problem was that the family should have not released the identity of the patient to the public because it would backfire on them.
Another said the whole family could be stigmatised by the situation, something that is extremely common in Tonga.
It said some families or clans were stigmatised with “kilia”, the Tongan word for leprosy, in the past. Nowadays it was a stigma that people used to identify those families whenever there was any dissatisfaction with them.
Vēili Pāongo contacted Kaniva News and said he was disappointed with the post and wanted to make a response.
He said he contacted the poster and they apologised.