Pago repatriation flights on the cards, P.M. confirms

Cabinet will decide on whether to resume flights between Pago Pago and Apia this week, with a final call made by Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi confirmed on the weekend.

It would mark the first flights scheduled between the two Samoas since March, when both countries closed their borders to the outside world in a bid to avoid importing the coronavirus pandemic.

Both succeeded and have remained COVID-19 free ever since. 

In an interview with Radio 2AP on Saturday during his archery training session, Tuilaepa said he and Cabinet met with the American Samoa pandemic committee to discuss reopening the route. 

He said that the committee and cabinet will discuss the matter, decide on what amendments need to be made to the state of emergency orders and make an announcement after their meeting on Monday. 

“A lot of people from Tutuila travelled before the border closed and they have been wanting to go back,” Tuilaepa said. 

“This is not only for their people who are stuck here but also for our citizens stuck in Tutuila.

“The good thing is, American Samoa has agreed to open their borders to Samoa. Our decision to open our borders also depends looking at New Zealand, Australia and Fiji. This will all be discussed on Monday and that is when we will make a final decision.”

Whether travellers from American Samoa to Samoa and the other way around would be expected to quarantine themselves for two weeks has not been made clear.

Expectations of, and criteria for travellers were asked of the Director General of the Ministry of Health Leausa Dr. Take Naseri on Monday.

He did not respond by press time. 

The same questions were sent to the Director General of the Department of Health Motusa Tuileama Nua and were not responded to by press time.

Currently travellers arriving from New Zealand are required to have been in quarantine for two weeks before travelling, be tested negative for COVID-19 three days before travelling and stay in quarantine two weeks upon arrival.

Talanei reports Motusa told the Health Committee Hearing on Friday that the proposed schedule will be two flights a day from Monday to Friday this week, with 206 people waiting to return. 

Motusa said it has not been made clear if return flights will repatriate stranded American Samoans in Samoa.

Last month, Tuilaepa and Cabinet agreed to open Samoa’s border to American Samoa, but the same call was not made on the other side of the waters.

In an interview with Samoa Observer, Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga said the borders would remain closed despite Samoa offering to resume flying there again. 

“We will stick to our policy, and not go by what Samoa is doing,” he said at the time.

Talofa Airways confirmed they are awaiting confirmation from the Government on whether it can schedule flights.

Also begging to come home are American Samoans stranded in Hawaii, but Chief Medical Officer of the LBJ Hospital Dr Iotamo Saleapaga has warned against reopening the country’s border to Honolulu.

He told the House Health Committee that people in Hawaii should be patient because it is still not safe to resume flights. 

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