American Samoa closes doors to Samoa, U.S. Mainland

Repatriation flights from Samoa to American Samoa have ceased effective August 19 with future flights now dependent on the leaders of the nation and the U.S. territory.

Chairman of American Samoa’s COVID-19 Task Force, ‘Iulogologo Joseph M. Pereira, told the Samoa Observer that repatriation flights ceased August 19 [Thursday, August 20, Samoa Time] and will remain that way until there is contact again between the heads of the Samoa Government and the territorial government.

‘Iulogologo, who is Executive Assistant to Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga, said the Governor appreciates the positive response from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi in relation to their request for repatriation flights.

“The Governor is very appreciative over the positive response from the Honorable Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoli'ai Malielegaoi Sa'ilele for approving our request for the repatriation of our stranded residents in Samoa and for Samoa residents to return home,” he said.

“The repatriation program has ended with a few flights being allowed to bring skilled workers and medical personnel to meet the needs of our private sector and government alike. Our Governor has instructed our Attorney General that Wednesday, August 19, 2020 will end flights from Samoa. Any additional flights in the future will be discussed between our Governor and the Prime Minister.”

Samoan citizens who are in the United States and live in American Samoa contacted the Samoa Observer asking questions about repatriation.

However, ‘Iulogologo said repatriation has its risks which far outweighs the request by residents and nationals to return home.

“While the issue of repatriating our stranded residents is constantly being discussed, the risk of an asymptomatic person bringing the coronavirus into the Territory significantly outweighs the desires and the yearning of our people to return home.”

“Governor Lolo M. Moliga has been and continues to be concerned about the welfare of all our residents stranded in the U.S. and elsewhere and he is also very sympathetic and very sensitive to the emotional and financial toll brought to bear on our stranded residents. Notwithstanding, the Governor is also very concerned about the safety of the bulk of our population on [the] island.”

The American territory’s COVID-19 Task Force Chairman also acknowledged that American Samoa’s healthcare facilities are “very limited and can easily be overwhelmed if there is an outbreak.”

“The most effective deterrent to safeguard American Samoa from being thrust into this unthinkable horror is to arrest the COVID-19 outside of American Samoa. Our residents stranded outside have access to good medical facilities and effective healthcare services off-island. So they are better off staying in the States where such healthcare services are available,” he added.

“The Governor authorised a chartered flight to evacuate those who require medical treatment from outside health institutions and those who with serious conditions who needed to visit their healthcare providers, college bound students, active military personnel, and U.S. Citizens stranded in American Samoa.”

In the Governor's Seventh Amended COVID-19 Health Emergency Declaration issued on 1 August, 2020 it advised of the closure of American Samoa's borders with Hawai’i, the U.S. and all other countries to 31 August, 2020.

Nonetheless, ‘Iulogologo dispelled reports of American Samoa’s borders being closed until the end of 2020.

“In light of the triple digit number of confirmed cases in Hawai’i in recent days prompted our Governor Lolo M. Moliga to send a letter to the President and C.E.O. of Hawaiian Airlines [Peter Ingram] disclosing his intention to continue our border closure restriction throughout the entire month of September,” he told the Samoa Observer.

“The Governor has not entertained any thought to closing our borders to the end of the year. The situation in Hawai’i and States with large Samoan population pockets will continue to be monitored from which subsequent decisions will be made.”

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