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Repatriation flights to continue; quarantine sites increased

Repatriation flights for Samoans currently stranded in New Zealand will continue until they are all brought home.

This was confirmed by the Chairman of the National Emergency Operations Centre (N.E.O.C.), Ulu Bismarck Crawley, in an interview with the Samoa Observer as concerns mount over the security of the Government’s quarantine sites following multiple breaches.

He said the repatriation flights to Samoa will continue and they will increase the number of quarantine sites to compensate for the large number of arrivals.

“Their visas have ended and we can’t just let them stay there," Ulu said. 

"We tried to fill in the others [into the quarantine sites] and we also have new [sites], using other churches and villages,” he said when commenting on the plight of citizens stranded in New Zealand.

“I cannot confirm the total of quarantine sites right now because more are coming at the same time, while others are being quarantined so we might even look for some more flights. I think we might have a few more flights and then we go back to closing to control them [flights] so we can monitor the process because there’s an overlap during the flights.”

On the quarantine breaches, he added: “It’s not an issue that happens everyday, it’s just an incident. Please we don’t expect these to happen all the time.”

Besides selected hotels and guest houses in Apia, a number of churches have also stepped forward and offered their buildings to be used as quarantine sites for returning citizens. 

Initially, the quarantine protocol standardised by the N.E.O.C was for 15 quarantine sites, which grouped the passengers into bundles of 10 people each. 

But Ulu said that the arrival numbers have skyrocketed with 10-plus people now being quarantined as a group.

“We tried to fill in the others [into the quarantine sites] and we also have new [sites], using other churches and villages.

“I cannot confirm the total of quarantine sites right now because more are coming at the same time while others are being quarantined so we might even look for some more flights.

“I think we might have a few more flights and then we go back to closing to control them [flights] so we can monitor the process because there’s an overlap during the flights.”

And while a brawl between two quarantined passengers a fortnight ago is a concern for the public, Ulu said alcohol is now banned on repatriation flights. 

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