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Social distancing ignored in Sunday to'ana'i rush

Large crowds of people packed the supermarkets, markets and shops in and around Apia on Saturday, in some instances disregarding social distancing rules and to complete all their shopping before Sunday.

Limited trading hours on Sundays, after the amended state of emergency (S.O.E.) orders directed that shops only open from 3-6pm, was a major factor behind the public packing retail outlets and markets to buy food for the weekend.

Sam Mose, a street vendor who was outside the Frankie Hypermarket at Vaitele on Saturday, told Samoa Observer that it was unusual seeing a very large number of people shopping, but it has worked out well for them as they've managed to make some sales.

“We’ve been vending for years and especially on Sunday and since the lockdown kept us a bit tight with our earnings, today has been different,” he said.

“We’ve sold a lot today since there were a lot of customers and though we came today because tomorrow won’t be open, we’re just really grateful.”

Mr. Mose said the majority of the vendors selling their goods within the vicinity of the Vaitele supermarket felt the same way.

Some buses, which travelled to Apia from far flung villages, were seen parked around the Apia town area and Vaitele awaiting their passengers. 

A number of fish vendors, who usually operate at the Savalalo fish market on Sundays, had mixed feelings about the amended S.O.E. orders that resulted in the closure of all markets Sundays.

A fish vendor from Letogo, Maleko Taputapuo, said they earn less during the lockdown compared to a normal Sunday without an S.O.E. put in place. 

“But that is except for today which is obviously jam packed with people desperate to shop for the Sunday to’anai,” he added.

A 61-year-old mother of Aleisa, Sami Setima, said usually they wake up early Sunday morning to shop for their to’anai. But their Saturday and Sunday routine changed after the S.O.E. orders were amended.

“I believe that’s also why most of these people and families are here to shop,” she said. “We all know how important Sunday to’anai is in our families so it differs from your usual meals of the week days and they have to be special.”

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