Of the 118 local residents repatriated so far, 87 are foreign nationals
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — As of June 26, a total of 118 local resides have been repatriated back from Samoa while 100 citizens of Samoa were returned back to their home country, according to Health Department data presented at Sunday’s ASG coronavirus task force meeting aired later in that evening on KVZK-TV.
The data specified the number of repatriated residents and returning Samoa citizens on each flight operated by Samoa Airways and Talofa Airways between June 17 and June 25. A total of 14 flights operated by both carriers during this period.
And the ASG’s repatriation plan — for phase three — continues this week.
DoH also provided data on nationality of each repatriated traveler — 20 American Samoans, eleven US citizens, 82 citizens of Samoa, two each who are citizens of China and New Zealand and one Fiji national.
A few questions were raised at the meeting regarding the foreign nationals (except for Samoa), but Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga explained that the Attorney General’s Office gives the “OK board” under specific established guidelines to travel on the repatriated flights and the foreign nationals are all legal residents of American Samoa.
Repatriated residents are now going through a 14-day quarantine at the Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs (DYWA) building in Pago Pago and Sadie’s by the Sea hotel — since June 24. All arrivals are subjected to testing and so far all have negative results.
While the governor had estimated that about 206 local residents were stranded in Samoa, that number was still not firm at the time of Sunday’s task force meeting.
Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua said that repatriation flights continue this week, starting today with the hope of the uplifting all stranded local residents being completed by July 3rd. He also said that the Fatuoaiga designated quarantine site became available yesterday (June 29th).
Motusa also shared some of the challenges faced by DoH and among them is determining the true number of US Nationals and legal residents stranded in Samoa needing to be returned to the territory.
Another serious challenge, during the COVID-19 declaration as well as the repatriation phase, is the DoH staff shortage and “burnout”, with Motusa citing overworked medical staff, and that there is a serious shortage. In response the governor suggested that DoH utilize all medical staff, especially physicians working at clinics, to which Motusa said DoH has one physician stranded in the US and DoH is trying to bring in support from the Pacific.
DoH epidemiologist Dr. Aifili John Tufa — as part of the department’s presentation — gave a briefing on the global overall look of the pandemic, which surpassed 10 million cases as of this past Saturday while deaths stand at just over half-a-million — according to a running global tally by John Hopkins University. The tally also shows an increase in the number of US cases.
And as of June 27th, both American Samoa and Samoa have no confirmed cases, according to Dr. Tufa, who points out that 810 samples have been tested for the virus and all have come back negative.
He explained that the increase in the number of tests, is attributed to the hike in testing of first responders, with 422 of them tested, with more scheduled for testing this week.
As of June 27th, DoH has 4,149 tests on hand, with 2,189 reserved for symptomatic patients and 1,960 for community based testing.