Samoan Government not taking chances, deports Minister

The Samoan Government is taking no chances with the looming threat of the novel coronavirus reaching the nation's shores, even if it means deporting your own Cabinet Minister.

The Government Press Secretariat, Nanai Laveitiga Tuiletufuga, told the Samoa Observer that the Minister of Commerce Industry and Labour was one of the first Samoans to be denied entry upon arrival at the Faleolo Airport.

He has since returned to Samoa.

The Minister, Lautafi Fio Purcell, who also has charge of the Public Enterprise portfolio, flew into Samoa together with the eight Samoans who were controversially deported upon arrival home for coronavirus quarantine reasons earlier in February.

Lautafi was together with the group when they were refused entry at Faleolo International Airport and sent back to Fiji for two weeks of quarantine.

It is not known to where the Minister had traveled before landing in Samoa and being sent to Fiji where he traveled together with the eight Samoans. The rest of the group had transited through Singapore, which had been listed in Samoa's coronavirus travel advisory blacklist, hence their being refused entry into the country.

Called for a comment on the matter, the Minister denied being refused entry into Samoa and deported back to Fiji, saying the Samoa Observer needs to check its sources.

But two of the eight Samoans with whom he traveled to Samoa and back to Fiji with also confirmed they had traveled together with the Minister. But the Minister did not stay together with the rest of the group, who were quarantined at the Grand Melanesian Hotel in Nadi.

The Samoa Observer understands that Lautafi returned to Samoa two days before the rest of the eight deported Samoans.

The Press Secretariat told the Samoa Observer that the Government is not taking any chances.

"It’s too risky right now," he said.

"Even our own people we are not giving them exemptions. Our [Cabinet] Minister was also denied entry and sent back to Fiji.

"That’s how important and paramount the health precautions are at our border of security.

"He got turned back just like everybody else. That’s how strict the policy is."

Before January ended, the Ministry of Health had already begun screening at the Faleolo Airport, as the Government directed that all incoming visitors to Samoa are now required to provide medical clearance confirming they are free of the virus.

Under new measures, Samoans and non-Samoans alike will be refused entry without a two-week period of quarantine in a country without coronavirus cases and will require a medical certification.   

The provision of medical certification is a requirement when checking in before a boarding pass is issued at the airport.

Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Mainland China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Kuwait, Taiwan and Macau are on the list of countries from which travelers are prevented from arriving, without first undergoing 14 days self-quarantine in a country without the virus.

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