Repatriation Flight from New Zealand Put on Hold, Samoa Remains at Alert Level 1 as 10 Covid-Positive Passengers from Brisbane Monitored

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Thursday 22 January 2022 Apia Samoa. The first repatriation flight from Auckland New Zealand for 2022, expected to arrive this Saturday 22nd January has been delayed until further notice.

The decision was made by Samoa’s Prime Minister and Cabinet in an emergency meeting held at 1pm this afternoon.

Head of Samoa’s NEOC Agafili Shem Leo confirmed this during a press conference with local media on Thursday afternoon.

NEOC Press Conference Thurs 20 Jan 2022.

“The Prime Minister and Cabinet have decided to postpone the flight from New Zealand, while we continue to monitor the situation with those who have recently tested positive,” said Agafili.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs have moved to alert passengers expected to arrive on Saturdays flight, especially those expecting to transit in New Zealand on route to Samoa,” he added.

The NEOC Chair said it is expected that the Prime Minister and Cabinet will discuss remaining flights from Australia, and convey a decision soon for the information of the public, and those expecting to travel.

Samoa continues to impose strict pre-departure requirements for all passengers who wish to be repatriated.

According to Samoa’s Director General of Health, Leausa Dr Take Naseri, the flight from Brisbane with the 10 passengers who tested positive at the airport on Wednesday afternoon, had a total of 73 passengers. However there were 267 passengers on the original flight list. “And so these 73 passengers were the only ones able to travel across, only 73” said the Director General of Health.

The numbers imply 194 passengers were unable to board, having not satisfied Samoa’s strict border control protocols. “If you don’t show negative test results, you cannot come. If you don’t have the medical clearance, you cannot come. If you are not fully vaccinated, you cannot come..” said Leausa.

“It is likely that these passengers could have caught the virus on the way to the airport, or inside the departure lounge” he said. “We know that the omnicron variant is much more transmissible than the delta,” he added.

File photo: Immigration officers from the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet on hand to clear passengers arriving on repatriation flights.

For those who may have contracted the virus and recovered, there are also protocols to follow. “A six month period has to have passed since their recovery, and within 30 days of travel, they have to have return 3 negative tests,” clarified Leausa.

Samoa remains in Alert Level 1, given the positive cases are all in isolation and have had no contact with the public.

Dr Leausa said Samoa has been preparing for the coronavirus for the past two years, and assured the public that Samoa is safe.

“We are confident that there is no community transmission and we will continue to monitor all quarantine sites and isolation units,” said Dr Leausa. “Even our health care workers, they are also in isolation and have not returned to their families as a matter of protocol”.

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Meantime, Samoa has reached 86% of eligible adults fully vaccinated with over 18,500 children aged 12 to 18 also fully vaccinated. A programme to vaccinate 5 to 11 year olds is in the pipeline and the roll-out of booster shots for those fully vaccinated has also been confirmed by the NEOC, to be expected in the coming months.

NEOC Chair reminded Samoa to remain vigilant, and keep up to date with credible information from reliable sources regarding the national battle against covid-19.

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Agafili warned against unnecessary panic due to false information being passed around on social media and reminded Samoa to remain faithful in God.

“We continue to thank God for his protection over Samoa”.