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Flights for residents stranded in Samoa postponed to Wednesday

Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua
No word on when Samoa residents can return back home

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — At Sunday’s government coronavirus task force meeting, Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua unveiled DoH’s new repatriation plan for American Samoa residents stranded in Samoa, based on the availability of local quarantine facilities.

And the new plan, approved at the meeting, now calls for the repatriation to be carried out in three phases beginning on Wednesday, June 17th, instead of today, June 15th - as initially announced by the task force on Friday.

DoH will issue soon a notice to inform the public of the strict security measures at the quarantine facilities for local families to follow if they want to contact their arriving relatives, repatriated from Apia.

See tomorrow’s Samoa News edition for details of the new repatriation plan.

Asked on Friday whether the Samoa government-owned Samoa Airways or private owned Apia-based Talofa Airways will be used for the flights, Iulogologo said, “we have no control over the airlines to be utilized for the repatriation process.

“This is a special request from the Governor of American Samoa so the Samoa Government will make that decision, not us. Both carriers are Samoa’s,” he points out.
Iulogologo confirmed that all arriving residents will be COVID-19 tested upon arrival at the airport, and explained that all travelers “will be quarantined for 14 days under the supervision of the Department of Health based on its established criteria.”

According to Iulogologo, who is also the governor’s executive assistant, the “window for the repatriation of our residents is limited. Once we repatriate all our people we will shut our borders down.”

Citizens of Samoa stuck in the territory since the border closing are wondering and asking if they will be allowed to return back to Apia on the repatriation flights.

Asked if Samoa will allow its residents stranded here to be returned to Apia on these flights, Iulogologo said that’s a decision Samoa will make and he had not seen — as of last Friday morning — any request for the repatriation of Samoa citizens stranded here.

“I have heard that all Samoa returning residents will require pre-testing before entering Samoa, and we don't have enough tests to test them,” he explained. “So at this juncture we don't know what Samoa will do with its residents stranded here.”

News outlets in Apia and Auckland have reported that Samoa citizens repatriated from other countries such as New Zealand are required to undergo 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Samoa as well as getting tested before arrival in Samoa.