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Samoa still not allowing passengers on return flights from Am Samoa

Dr. Aifili John Tufa

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Some 100 passengers, local residents and Samoan workers recruited from Samoa for the cannery, were flown in last week Wednesday and Friday on flights from Apia, but still no passengers are allowed for the return flights to the Independent state.

During a Health Department news conference last week Thursday, DoH Clinical Service acting director, Dr. Elizabeth Lauvao said that about 50 passengers arrived on flights from Samoa last week Wednesday and another 50 passengers were scheduled on last Friday’s flights.

She said all passengers from Samoa were placed in a 24-hour quarantine site and then tested for COVID-19, before release. She emphasized that Samoa is only allowing passengers on incoming flights from Apia and no outbound passengers from American Samoa back to Apia.

ASG officials told Samoa News over the weekend that about 60-plus travelers on the two flights from Apia were workers hired by StarKist Samoa under the local Guest Worker Permit law and all of them tested negative and have since been released.

Additionally, flights from Samoa continue this week on Wednesday and Friday and the same is expected next week.

DoH officials have said in previous news conferences that the Samoa government is allowing only outbound flights Apia to Pago Pago Apia, until samples of the COVID-19 cases in the territory are tested for the type of variant.

This was the similar explanation shared by Samoa’s Director General of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, during a briefing in Apia early last week as reported by Radio New Zealand Pacific.

Leausa was defending the Samoa government’s decision on banning flights from American Samoa while allowing repatriation flights from New Zealand and Australia.

He is quoted by Radio New Zealand Pacific saying that the ban on flights from Pago Pago is because the four positive border cases in the territory have still not been tested — so it is not known if the cases are of the Delta strain.

He says there have been no positive cases of coronavirus from arrivals from Australia and New Zealand.

The territory’s lead epidemiologist, Dr. Aifili John Tufa of DoH explained during a news conference two weeks ago the reason behind the decision not to send out the samples of positive cases to testing for the variant at the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

He said that DoH cannot send the sample off to CDC at this time for genomic sequencing, “because if we have one positive case here or a few positive cases and we send that sample off for sequencing, it is possible that the identity of this person can be revealed, not only locally but also internationally.” (See Samoa News edition Oct. 15th for details.)