Eight Samoan nationals including five patients and three carers returning from a government funded Overseas Medical Referral program in India were denied entry into Faleolo International Airport last night.
The patients and their carers are the first Samoan citizens to be denied entry into their own country since the Travel Advisory restrictions were imposed last month as a precautionary measure for the spread of the coronavirus.
Samoa Global News was alerted to the situation last night by a concerned Fijian medical practitioner who was surprised that Samoa would turn away their own citizens.
He told Samoa Global News that the patients included two people in wheelchairs, and a baby with a colostomy bag.
“What if Fiji decided to deny entry to them? They’d be stranded in limbo and homeless”.
“I thought entry into one’s own country of citizenship is a basic human right”, he added.
The Minsitry of Health did not respond to questions from Samoa Global News on Sunday night, choosing instead to issue an explanation via a press release.
The government Press Release confirms that the Samoan citizens had only transitted in Singapore on route to Samoa from India.
It is unclear from the official Press Release why the patients were returned to Fiji, instead of being self-quarantined in Samoa as they had done with previous cases.
Samoa Health officials have so far quarantined six Samoan nationals at the Faleolo Health Clinic; including two returning Samoan students from mainland China, two sailors who had transitted in China and a woman traveling back with her Kenyan husband. All six Samoan citizens are being self-quarantined for 14 days as a precautionary measure.
The Samoa Ministry of Health claims that the patients were returning home, “fom successful treatment” but were turned away nonetheless.
“The Samoans had transited through Singapore…as a result, they were denied entry and returned to Fiji last night”, read the Press Release.
According to the Samoa Director General of Health Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, arrangements have been made for the Samoan nationals to be quarantined with Apollo and Fortis Hospital in Nadi, Fiji.
“We will continue to monitor the patient’s situation from here;
“An open line of communication is now established with Apollo and Fortis representatives in Fiji,” says Leausa.
There are now six countries on Samoa’s list of high risk nations requiring a 14-day self-quarantine mandate including China, Hong Kong, Maccau, Japan, Thailand and Singapore.
The stance taken by the Ministry of Health officials at Faleolo airport means Samoans citizens themselves will be denied entry from these countries, and cannot take the self-quarantine option at Faleolo Clinic as has been applied to other nationals.
The eight Samoans were denied entry along with 11 other travellers on Fiji Airways on Sunday night.
“A total of 19 travellers including the Samoans were denied entry,” reads the Government Press Release.
“The remaining 11 are non-Samoan residents who had either travelled from Mainland China or transited through the 6 countries listed in the Travel Advisory.”