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Inter-Samoa flights halted indefinitely by Samoa

Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua
Border COVID-19 case retest result: NEGATIVE

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Following a decision by Samoa’s health authorities, inter-Samoa flights are temporarily suspended again, while the local resident who arrived on the Sept. 13th flight from Honolulu and tested positive of COVID-19 has been re-tested — under new protocols — and the result came back negative.

This is according to Health Department officials during a news conference called yesterday to update the community on various issues including an update on the inter Samoa flights, that had resumed with two flights a week on Wednesdays and Friday.

However, Wednesday’s flight this week didn’t operate following discussions between local and Samoa officials with the final decision by the Samoa government.

Just before the news conference was about to begin, Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua and other senior DoH officials left the room to take up a conference call with Samoa health authorities.

Upon their return, Motusa confirmed to reporters that inter Samoa flights are now suspended indefinitely.

DoH’s Clinical Service acting director Dr. Elizabeth Lauvao explained that they had just held a conference call with Samoa, whose Director General of Health, Leausa Toleafoa Dr. Take Naseri requested information on the variant from the Sept. 13th passenger from Hawaii who tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed in isolation.

However, DoH doesn’t have that information yet, and therefore flights between Apia and Pago Pago are suspended for the time being, according to local health officials, who noted that Samoa was informed that DoH doesn’t have the capability yet to test the sample for the variant.

The territory’s lead epidemiologist, Dr. Aifili John Tufa of DoH, explained that they are hoping to get the sample from the COVID-19 positive case sent out this weekend to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has specific guidelines to meet when it comes to shipping out samples.

He says that after checking with other U.S affiliated jurisdictions in the Pacific, it was learned that they too were having delays on shipments to CDC due to the requirement for an “import permit” into the U.S and that’s what DoH is working to address.

Motusa pointed out that DoH is ready to support what ever Samoa needs to resume flights but the final decision to close borders again — on air service — was made by Samoa, following the positive COVID-19 test here.

He emphasized to reporters that it was Samoa that made the decision and not DoH nor ASG.

As for the positive case, that passengers was placed in isolation for 14-days and it was announced by DoH during a news conference on Sept. 17th that based on CDC guideline, once a person who is fully vaccinated such as the Sept. 13th passenger tests positive, there is no need to re-test that person again.

But since the Sept. 17th press conference where several questions were raised on re-testing of a positive case, Dr. Lauvao informed reporters yesterday that DoH went back to reevaluating the CDC guidelines and other data information.

Utilizing new protocols and out of an abundance of precaution, as well as further review of CDC guidelines, Dr. Lauvao said the COVID-19 case was retested yesterday and the result was negative. Additionally, the 14-day isolation from Sept. 16th for the positive case ended yesterday and the traveler will be released from isolation today.

For the rest of the 259 passengers on the Sept. 13th flight from Honolulu, they all tested negative on their third and final test before being released from quarantine on Sept. 26th.

And all these passengers — including the COVID-19 case — now go through an additional home quarantine protocol for a period of time as well as accessing the TalofaPass websytem to update their health information, during this “self monitoring period”.

For the Sept. 27th flight from Honolulu there were 232 passengers and all are currently in 10-day quarantine — 183 at Tradewinds Hotel and 49 at Sadie’s by the Sea hotel. Their first COVID-19 test was carried out yesterday with results to be known by later in the evening.

Dr. Lauvao said DoH will release information today, Friday, if there is a positive from the Sept. 27th flight from Honolulu.

Samoa News will report in next week Monday’s edition on more information from DoH on home quarantine and other updates.