Borders shut, Govt. looks to bring scholarship students home

Samoa’s borders have been completely closed to travel yet again.

Both repatriation flights and departures from the island have been suspended temporarily.

In the latest amendment to the State of Emergency (S.O.E.) orders, released near midnight on Tuesday, the Government Press Secretariat stated that unless Cabinet approves a flight, “all international to and from Samoa by plane are temporarily suspended.”

But the National Emergency Operations Committee (N.E.O.C.) has been instructed to finds ways to return scholarship students stuck overseas, after a first-year student in Australia died waiting to get back to Samoa. 

The flight changes come in the wake of an outbreak of COVID-19 in New Zealand, with more than 100 cases in a new cluster that started in Auckland.

Wearing masks on public transport is now mandatory as the country fights to clamp down on the cluster that as yet, has no known source and it is not clear quite how wide it has already spread.

An upcoming repatriation flight scheduled for Friday 28 August was cancelled, and under the new amendment the next scheduled flight for Friday 18 September 2020 may not go ahead either.

Air New Zealand Samoa Country Manager, Karen Gatt, said the airline is waiting on Government advice over whether it can continue bringing passengers to Samoa. 

Samoa closed its borders to international travel since March but has brought hundreds of citizens home on repatriation flights from Auckland, American Samoa, and Fiji. 

The Government Press Secretariat has been approached for further clarification on why international travel out of Samoa is now suspended. 

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