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S.O.E. extended, Samoa world's longest lockdown

The Government-declared state of emergency [S.O.E.] has been extended again until September 27, making it the sixth consecutive month of lockdown for Samoa. It is possibly the longest lockdown in the world, yet.

Samoa remains to be without COVID19, along with Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, North Korea, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Tokelau.

On Friday, August 28, the Government Press Secretariat circulated a media release following an emergency consultation by the Cabinet.

"The Head of State, le Ao Mamalu o le Malo, Afioga Tuimalealiifano Va’aletoa Su’alauvi II after consultation with Cabinet this evening authorized the State of Emergency orders to be extended from August 31st 2020 to September 27th 2020," the Government release said.

Samoa entered lockdown on March 21 with the declaration of a S.O.E., a day after the country announced it is investigating its first suspected coronavirus case – a patient with flu-like symptoms who had just arrived at that time from New Zealand. 

Under powers granted under the S.O.E. orders, the Government also shut schools and banned gatherings of more than five people. 

It was at that time the second S.O.E. to be declared in Samoa within six months, and only three months after the measles S.O.E. lockdown was lifted.

However, as weeks progressed with amendments each week and the threat of the suspected case diminished, so did the economy.

At first, public gatherings of all shapes and sizes on any day of the week were cancelled, in a clear public health driven attempt to quash any spread of disease should it get onto Samoan shores unnoticed. 

The earliest signs of a Government-led effort to end work on Sundays was the S.O.E. order amendment released April 15: that the inter-island ferries, buses and markets would resume operations on the condition they would not operate on Sunday. 

Supermarkets were given just three trading hours, from 3 until 6pm to clamp down on public gatherings.

Then two days later, the April 17 amendment went a step further, stating “all businesses must close on Sunday,” and by May 8 swimming on Sundays was included in S.O.E. orders while restrictions on gatherings and hospitality opening hours were relaxed.

On May 14, another amendment was released allowing village councils to resume meetings but stipulated they may not be conducted on Sundays either.  

Schools started reopening in late May with a requirement to encourage hand washing and enforce a two-meter social distancing policy.

International travellers continue to be barred from entering the country as Samoa keeps its borders closed.

The only flights allowed in was for the repatriation of Samoans in New Zealand, until recently. The repatriation flight intended for Samoa last week was cancelled amidst fears around Auckland’s new coronavirus outbreak.  

Furthermore, registrations for future flights have been closed for the time being, Air New Zealand's Samoa Country Manager, Karen Gatt said.

“The Samoan Government has advised Air New Zealand that the repatriation flight from Auckland to Samoa on 28 August is no longer able to operate to Samoa due to the latest outbreak of COVID-19 in New Zealand,” Ms. Gatt said.

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