Governor urges ASG workers 60 and over to work from home, all residents ‘stay home’
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — During a tape-recorded address aired on KVZK-TV on Sunday night, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga requested that ASG workers 60 years old and over work from home and pleaded with residents to prevent unnecessary trips outside of their homes to prevent any spread of the “dangerous and deadly disease — coronavirus.”
Also Sunday night, the ASG Health Department released its revised travel advisory, effective yesterday (Mar. 23rd), which outlines additional restrictions.
Of air travel, Hawaiian Airlines will reduce its two weekly flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago, while Samoa Airways is operating emergency flights from Apia to Pago Pago uplifting stranded American Samoan residents, who are expected to be placed in 14-day quarantine, upon arrival.
In his address, which was pre-recorded at government house on Maugaoali’i, where he is self-quarantined, Lolo addressed the people of American Samoa on what the government is doing to “protect all of you from being infected by this dangerous and deadly disease, coronavirus.”
He noted that American Samoa has been “truly blessed” in the past several weeks, with three-consecutive storms in a period of one week last month without any fatalities and the government has now lifted the emergency declaration on the measles outbreak.
“And because of our bold and unpopular actions, not one life was lost” during the measles outbreak with only 16 confirmed cases, he said.
However, “we are now yet facing another health challenge, which is more deadly — the coronavirus,” he said. “Because of its unpredictability and difficulty to determine the carriers of the virus — although we have not registered a confirmed coronavirus case — we will continue to place our hope in God, through our prayers that American Samoa will again be blessed by being spared from the clutches of this lethal disease.”
He pointed out that the Bible gives “clear guidelines on how to conquer such health enemies by committing to do everything that we can possibly do, and to leave no stone un-turned in our quest to fight this disease, then God will do His part. God helps those who help themselves.”
“Based on this Biblical guidance,” Lolo said he has issued an emergency declaration, which contain actions “that we must implement to fight the entry and the spread of the coronavirus into our homes.”
He acknowledged that these actions — effective Mar. 23rd under Code Blue — “will disrupt our lives and cause great discomfort, inconvenience, irritation, distress, anxiety and confusion.”
He stressed that all residents must make sacrifices in “order to achieve our collective desire not to lose one life from this dreadful disease.”
Lolo explained that his “fundamental objective is to save lives” and this prompted the “adoption of the actions that calls for individual sacrifice. Each one of us — from the youngest to the most senior — must take ownership of this health crisis because we will not succeed if total commitment by all residents of American Samoa is not exercised.”
“I humbly ask for your patience and understanding when government action seems to be unclear, confused, disconnected or disorganized, it is because we don’t know very much [about] the disease,” he said.
Lolo noted that “situations are changing very rapidly” on COVID-19, but he said “rest assured, we are now working feverishly and comprehensively to adopt the best practices used in the United States to reduce the incidents of death and the spread of the coronavirus.”
“Our hopes of positive results are placed in the hands of our merciful God,” he said during his English address.
During the Samoan address, the governor shared additional information, and asked that ASG workers ages 60 and over stay and work from home and offered the same suggestion to other workers. He pointed out reports from health experts in which they say that the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to stay home, because traveling outside of the home frequently increases the risk of spreading the virus to others in the community.
As Code-Blue went into effect, the governor pleaded with the community for the majority of residents to stay home, and venture out only if necessary. He said banning of public gatherings and other restrictions under Code Blue will be fully enforced by Department of Public Safety.
In closing, he said, “Our goal is to keep people home and prevent the spread of the virus,” and asked the public for prayers to weather American Samoa through this new dangerous health challenge.
DOH REVISED TRAVEL ADVISORY
Under its revised travel advisory released Sunday night and effective yesterday, DoH announced updated restrictions for the territory, current under Code-Blue, including that all entry permits are still suspended.
It also says that all travelers — including US passport holders — traveling from COVID-19 affected US states will be required to complete a DoH health declaration form; a public health screening process; and will be subject to either a Full Quarantine or a Home Quarantine.
The same process also applies to travelers, including US passports holders, traveling from and transiting through any affected foreign country. And these travelers will be subject to “mandatory full quarantine.”
DoH also says that all flights between American Samoa and Samoa, as well as flights between American Samoa and Tonga have ben suspended.
Of the seaport, screening requirements for all vessels remain the same, and that all cruise ships will not be granted entry until further notice.
DoH “strongly recommends” persons intending to travel to foreign countries and US states affected by COVID-19 to postpone their travel arrangements. (Samoa News notes that all US states have confirmed cases.)
“Please advise your family and relatives traveling from affected US states and foreign countries that they will be placed on mandatory quarantine of 14-days or more,” according to the advisory, signed by Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua.
AIR TRAVEL UPDATES
Samoa Airways announced Sunday night (American Samoa time) that it was operating two flights yesterday and today into Pago Pago to uplift US citizens and nationals as well as American Samoa residents stranded in Apia after the Samoa government issued an emergency declaration last Friday (American Samoa time) that among other things — suspended flights on the inter-Samoa route.
The governor had requested Samoa government for a temporary emergency lift of the declaration in order to return the stranded passengers, which include about 10 church ministers and their spouses.
Under the DoH revised travel advisory, “All travelers from Samoa are subject to a mandatory full quarantine.”
With the Leone Heath Clinic, the designated ASG facility for quarantine, now fully occupied, an ASG official says two local facilities have been identified for quarantine of these stranded passengers — a building at the Kanana Fou complex and a separate area of the Department of Youth and Women’s Affair building in Pago Pago.
For Hawaiian Airlines, the Honolulu-based carrier announced Sunday evening the reduction of its long-haul service starting Thursday this week, with only one daily flight between Honolulu and Los Angeles, and the Thursday flight only between Honolulu and Pago Pago.
All other US domestic flights will be suspended as the state of Hawai’i will implement on Thursday, a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals into the Aloha State to prevent the spread of the virus.
Samoa News has been unable to get clarification from Hawai’i health officials as to whether the new quarantine process will include passengers transiting through Honolulu to and from American Samoa.
It’s understood that Lolo’s office is also seeking clarification from its Hawai’i counterparts on this issue. And the governor’s office has already been informed about the reduction of weekly flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago.
See yesterday’s edition for the reason last night’s flight from Honolulu was cancelled.