Samoa announces more repatriation flights — including first from Australia
Apia, SAMOA — Samoa's next repatriation flight from New Zealand has been scheduled for September 11 with the first flight from Australia scheduled to bring back students from China and Japan as well.
Next Friday's flight from New Zealand follows the cancellation of a previous flight on August 28 due to the resurgence of Covid-19 in Auckland.
Close to 300 stranded seasonal workers who were booked on that flight will now return to Samoa next Friday (Samoa time).
Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi said staggered repatriation flights would continue into October so as not to overload quarantine facilities in Samoa.
The news comes the same week as Tuila'epa announced plans for a first repatriation flight from Australia for stranded citizens, particularly scholarship students who had finished their studies.
Samoa's government has approved a one-off charter flight from Australia to repatriate scholarship students who have finished their schooling, a first since the lockdown started in March.
Prime Minister Tui'laepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi revealed the new plan on local television as well as other amendments to the State of Emergency Orders on Wednesday.
He said there were enough students in Australia, Japan and China to warrant the charter, proposed for the end of September, which would also allow for the repatriation of other stranded citizens.
But he stressed the cost of the charter would be met by the individuals themselves, including costs of quarantine and medical checks.
Tuila'epa also said passengers would have to meet all medical requirements and checks or they would not be allowed to travel.
Those travelling from Japan and China will have to find their own way to the yet to be named city in Australia to board the flight to Samoa.
STRANDED SAMOAN SAILORS
Meanwhile most of the 323 Samoan sailors stranded overseas due to the Covid-19 pandemic have been re-employed, according to the Samoa government agency that handles their contracts with foreign shipping companies.
The Samoa Observer newspaper reported that Samoa Shipping Services CEO Lautimu'ia Uelese Vaai confirmed that only 19 sailors were awaiting confirmation of new contracts as some families continued to voice concern about the safety of the sailors.
"Patience is the virtue, and holding strong onto our faith in God Almighty that there will always be sunshine after rain, and our lives will be back to normal in God's time. This pandemic will never destroy us and our faith," he said.
He added that sailors could not be brought home until the borders opened up again and he reassured the public of their safety.
"Negotiations are ongoing at this point on this matter, there is a lot at stake and to consider, safety is still our top priority."
Lautimu'ia said that those who had contracted the coronavirus with minor symptoms had been treated and recovered.
"Blood tests for the three men came back positive and were straight away put in quarantine on a different floor of the cruise ships they were on."
The government was not taking any chances with some unemployed sailors who were asking to travel overseas to take up employment.
"There will always be employment opportunities on ships but under the circumstances there's a lot to consider carefully, before making decisions on deployment and safety of our seafarers is top of the list," the CEO said.