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Gov't. stands by decision to restrict small stores on Sunday

The Government will not back down on its decision to restrict the trading hours of small stores on Sunday as part of its amended state of emergency [S.O.E.] orders.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi told the Taimi ma le Palemia program on Sunday that people should focus on valuing the essence of morning church services instead of lining up in front of small stores on Sundays.

“At first, we allowed small shops to open with the reason that people need to buy small things like beard cutters for fathers on Sundays, tinned fish for faiai elegi [traditional Samoan food],” he said on the program.

“But what happened is that people have continuously been bombarding the small shops on Sundays, which means they are waiting to do all their shopping on Sunday forgetting that they have to be in church in the morning.”

Small stores are identified as shops with a counter without a walk-in space and as per the recent amendments to the S.O.E. orders will now only open on Sundays from 3pm, which is similar scheduling to the bigger supermarkets' trading hours.

The rest of the S.O.E. orders remain in force, meaning restaurants and supermarkets opening hours will not change. This restriction targeting small stores comes after a number of supermarkets "converted" their setup in order to meet the requirements of being a small shop and thus have flexible trading hours.

Speaking during the program, the Prime Minister said he is of the view that the new S.O.E. amendments are “fair” for supermarket owners or bigger shops and restaurants.

“Six and a half days are enough for us to find money for our families and it’s only for a half of a day. It opens again by 3pm and morning services are very important to any church,” he added.

Some small supermarkets also cemented and closed off their doors halfway in order to meet the definition of being a "small store" since the Sunday restrictions on bigger supermarkets' trading hours began. 

Samoa is in its fifth consecutive month of lockdown with the Government declaring the S.O.E. to mitigate risks associated with the global pandemic.

Under the S.O.E. orders, all trading on Sundays has been off the table for months while swimming in the sea or in rivers as well as the selling of alcohol in hotels and restaurants have been outlawed.  

Recently, a slight change to the rules allowed hotels to serve non-guests food from noon until 10pm, and restaurants were permitted to offer takeaway food on Sundays. All other businesses, except supermarkets running during limited hours, are not permitted to operate, including petrol stations.

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