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Tokelau grateful for Samoa's COVID-19 response

Tokelau has thanked the Samoa Government for its coronavirus (COVID-19) response, describing it as a shield of protection for the island nation and its people.

The General Manager of the Office of Council for the Ongoing Government of Tokelau, Aukusitino Vitale, told Samoa Observer in an email response that his country is grateful as the state of emergency (S.O.E.) in Samoa is a protection mechanism for both their citizens as well as Samoans.

“Samoa's response to COVID-19 has been a blessing for Tokelau, given it’s only the window in and out for travelers to Tokelau,” he said.

The decision by the Samoan Cabinet to give approval for vessels to berth at the Apia wharf, in order to load essential supplies for Tokelau residents, was also praised by Mr Vitale. 

“We are also grateful to the Samoa Cabinet and the Emergency Committee on their recent acceptance to allow our vessels to continue operation with essential supplies required for our COVID-19 preparation, specifically in the areas of food and water security, health, and supplies to refurbish buildings for quarantine, isolation units, and general hospital services.”

Due to the uncertainty relating to COVID-19 and its impact on the community, Mr Vitale said they continued to pray to God for protection.

“Further, we are blessed that both our countries have not had any confirmed COVID-19 cases,” he said. “We continue to pray for his protection for our countries and the rest of the world as no one knows how long we have to wait for the international pandemic to end.”

Currently, churches in Tokelau are broadcasting their services for people to worship at home, with a lockdown underway on the island.

“Through the national media unit, both the Catholic and EFKT in the villages have been broadcasting live Facebook feeds of their church services to homes for their communities in lockdown to join,” added Mr Vitale.

The Tokelau General Fono (Parliament) met in Tokelau from March 10-12 to discuss the country’s response to COVID-19 and the steps that need to be taken. Consequently, a response plan was formulated and a National Executive Board for Disease Control and Emergency Response (Board) with an advisory committee was appointed to have oversight and monitor villages’ plans.

The Board has met four times since General Fono convened, which led to the closure of Tokelau’s international border on April 3. The border closure has caught out a number of Tokelauans, who have been waiting in Apia for a return flight to New Zealand since March 25.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) team is currently on the island to assist with Tokelau’s COVID-19 preparations.

Mr Vitale said the visit has enabled the refurbishment of buildings for villages’ COVID-19 response plans as well as visits to the chair of the advisory committee and the director for health.

This week two ships are scheduled to arrive in Apia with supplies with Mr Vitale adding that the New Zealand government gave Tokelau NZ$3 million to cover all activities for Tokelau’s COVID-19 preparation and emergency plan.

“MV Kalopaga and MV Mataliki are scheduled to depart Apia this week to bring supplies. NZ also gave additional funds of NZ$3m to Tokelau's recurrent budget to cover all additional activities necessary for the Preparedness and Emergency Plan for COVID 19,” he added.

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