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Task Force chair says no re-opening for Samoa travel has “filtered down” to them

ASG Coronavirus Task Force

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — ASG Coronavirus Task Force chairman Iulogologo Joseph Pereira said that any request by Samoa for re-opening of air and ocean passenger service between the two Samoas has “not been filtered down to the task force.”

Iulogologo was responding to Samoa News’ request for comments, following a news release earlier this week from the Samoa government, based on a press conference held in Apia on Monday (Sunday local time), regarding the 19 staff placed under controlled isolation a week ago, since the 3 reported COVID cases in American Samoa linked to the container ship — Fesco Askold — remain under 14 days quarantine as a health precaution.

National Emergency Operation Center chairman Agafili Tomaimano Shem Leo revealed at the press conference that Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi had already requested his American Samoa counterpart for flights and inter-island ferry services to resume.

However the request was denied on the condition that prior approval is needed from the out-going Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, according to Agafili.

Because a request by Tuilaepa has not filtered down to the task force, Iulogologo told Samoa News yesterday that the “task force is in no position to comment, lacking privy to the request.”

He points out that the Task Force, through the Department of Health, is “focused on containing any potential negative impact” of the container vessel, Fesco Askold, with 3 confirmed COVID-19 cases on board.

“The Governor is cautious on reopening flights between the two countries until our mitigation process is completed on the eleven DOH and Port employees who cleared the vessel the first time it entered. These individuals have been quarantined,” he explained. “We don't know as well what Samoa's mitigation plan outcomes are relative to the isolation of the individuals who might have come in contact with the vessel's crew during its stop in Samoa.”

“Once these issues are resolved, I am sure the Governor will respond favorably to the request to restart flights along with surface vessel's weekly trips to our shores,” said Iulogologo, who is also the governor’s executive assistant.

(See separate story printed elsewhere in today’s edition on status of the Fesco Askold)

Provisions of the governor’s current COVID-19 declaration state that inter-Samoa flights remain suspended and will be continually reviewed, depending on the COVID-19 status in both countries. If emergency needs arise, which will require special flights to American Samoa, this option will be considered by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.

Also suspended until further notice, as previously announced by the Administration, are passenger ferry sails between the two Samoas, however, cargo service is allowed on a weekly basis — arriving and departing on Thursdays.