Am. Samoa reopens borders to Samoa with conditions

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 11 December 2020, 12:00PM

The American Samoa government has agreed to reopen its borders to Samoa, though on the condition only Samoan citizens fly home and the aircraft used to repatriate them returns empty, reports Talanei News.

The territory’s Governor Lolo Moliga has also agreed for Samoa Shipping Corporation’s Lady Naomi to resume weekly services. 

The approval by Mr Moliga was revealed in an email correspondence from the Governor’s Executive Assistant and Chair of the Coronavirus Task Force, Iulogologo Joseph Pereira to Samoa’s CEO of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo.

The Samoa Observer has asked Agafili for comment in relation to approval given by the American Samoa government. 

The request from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi to the Governor was conveyed by Mr Moliga’s Chief of Staff, Fiu Johnny Saelua, reports Talanei News.

The request specifically in relation to the repatriation of Samoan citizens who were still stranded in American Samoa, and the adverse economic impact on Samoa of vessels rerouting their voyages to Pago Pago before Apia and other Pacific ports.

According to Talanei News, Iulogologo wrote, “Governor Lolo M. Moliga has granted approval on the repatriation of Samoa citizens with the caveat that no passengers will be allowed to enter American Samoa from Samoa. The Samoa Air(ways) plane stationed in the territory will repatriate Samoan citizens and return without any passengers.”

In relation to Tuilaepa’s concerns over the lack of transport options for Samoa’s fish and agricultural produce due to changes to shipping voyages, Governor Lolo has reportedly authorised the resumption of Lady Naomi’s weekly service to Pago Pago.

Iulogololgo said protocols governing the operation of the weekly shipping service will be discussed by the two governments, in order to prevent the accidental transmission of the coronavirus.

According to Talanei News, he referred to the incident with the container ship Fesco Askold last month where two sailors on the vessel tested positive for COVID-19 after the ship arrived from Apia. 

“The scare caused by the Fesco vessel incident has triggered the revision of our cargo vessel protocols,” said Iulogologo.

Since American Samoa closed its borders in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, daily flights between the two Samoa by Samoa Airways and Talofa Airways, have been suspended.

There have been about two dozen repatriation flights bringing American Samoans and residents  stranded in Samoa or were traveling from New Zealand and Fiji as well as special skilled workers mainly in the construction industry.

The return flights took Samoan citizens who were stranded in the territory.

The Lady Naomi ferry service which used to be weekly was reduced to a fortnightly trip after the pandemic, but after the Fesco Askold incident, the ferry service was suspended.

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 11 December 2020, 12:00PM

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