55-year-old teacher Dean Nevalagi was one of the people who took the booster vaccine on Tuesday morning but a few hours later he was found dead by his wife Joyce at Niue High School where they both teach.
Tuesday this week was the final day of the second booster vaccination rollout for people over 50 years old, health workers over 30, and teenagers 16 years and over.
More than 400 people had taken the booster two weeks ago. BCN news understands the vaccination programme on Tuesday was cut short after the death of Mr. Nevalagi was reported to the hospital.
It is understood that Dean Nevalagi who is the Head of the Intermediate department and part of the Executive Management Team returned to work at Niue High school after taking his booster at the hospital.
A very distraught Mrs Joyce Nevalagi said she was looking everywhere at the school for her husband that day because they always have lunch together but she couldn’t find him.
“I looked everywhere for him, and the only place I couldn’t look was the men’s bathroom, so I asked one of the male teachers to go look. That’s where he was and I just can’t get over this, that my husband died alone and we are always together,”
The incident at the school prompted the department of education to bring forward the school holidays for Niue high school and students were told to return home early.
Mrs. Joyce Nevalagi told BCN news that her husband and partner of 11 years had an underlying health condition of diabetes.
“I can’t sleep, I miss him so much”, said Mrs Joyce Labitad-Nevalagi.
The death of Mr Nevalagi has shaken the community but health officials are asking the community to remain calm and not to speculate as the Health Department continues its investigation.
BCN News reached out to the Minister of Health, the Director General, and the Director of Health and received a response from Director-General Gaylene Tasmania.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr Nevalagi’s family during this incredibly difficult time. Out of respect for the family, and due to the case still under investigation, we aren’t able to comment on the specifics of this particular situation.”
Tasmania said that the health department understands and acknowledges that there is public interest in this case, and they are asking that the public remain calm and refrain from speculating as they continue their investigation.
Meanwhile, the family, friends, and current and former students of Mr Nevalagi hold daily prayer services in the evenings until the day of his funeral.
Yesterday Mr. Nevalagi’s family from the village of Tuapa hosted the prayer evening. Family members spoke of a quiet man, who mind his own business and a man who loved his wife so much.
His cousin H.E Hon Fisa Pihigia thanked everyone for turning up to support Joyce and Dean’s other family, the Filipino community in Niue. His wife Joyce is one of several teachers recruited for Niue High School from the Philippines.
Joyce and Dean became a couple in 2011 and finally got married in 2016.
Another Filipino teacher and the couple’s close friend Jake Jagos told BCN News “He was called Mr Nev in school. He somehow projected a presence that demanded respect from both colleagues and students. I was fortunate I could call him ‘Coach’. He was a very good friend who called me family. He was always there for us when we needed help”
Mrs. Joyce Nevalagi said that she is waiting to find out what caused the sudden death of her husband and partner of eleven years.
BCN News understands that the Police are also completing their investigation for the coroner.
Earlier that Tuesday morning BCN News spoke with the head of public health Grizelda Mokoia who said that the rollout of the second booster started two weeks ago. Some people were not able to take part because they were not feeling well and some of the students were busy with their exams.
The second booster is recommended for people 50 years and over, students 16 years and over, and staff of the health department who are 30 years and over.
Niue remains one of the countries with the highest vaccination rates of 99.4% of people 12 years and over.
Eighty-three people have tested positive for Covid-19 since the first case was detected at the border back in March this year.
According to the government’s Covid-19 dashboard, no one was hospitalized and no one has died from the virus in Niue.
BCN News will update this story as information comes to hand on the report of the Health Department.