Ship cleared for Samoa, positive COVID19 test crew members not coming

Samoa has cleared the cargo ship, MV Island Chief, to travel to Apia this week, after the crew cleared their second COVID19 medical checks.

Last week, the ship’s 12 crew members underwent COVID-19 testing in Fiji before setting sail for Samoa, and two crew members tested positive.

The ship will leave for Samoa without those two crew members, while the other ten have returned two negative tests and are deemed safe to travel.

In a statement, the National Emergency Operations Centre said the ship’s agent, Fiji’s Ministry of Health and Samoan authorities have been in “constant discussions.”

Following protocol, the ship will dock at a quarantine buoy off the coast of Matautu Wharf and local health staff will board the vessel in full protective equipment to conduct final medical checks.

The local stevedoring crew, which helps the onboard crew offload the cargo and load outgoing containers, will also be in full personal protective equipment.

Last week Interim Chair Agafili Shem Leo has said the ship is carrying cargo Samoa needs over the Christmas period.

It was scheduled to arrive in Samoa on Monday 07 December.

Before Fiji, the vessel had been to Tonga.

On Friday 11 December, Radio New Zealand reported that following the negative tests for the remaining 10 crew members, Niue expected the vessel to arrive on Sunday 13 December.

Fiji also took the measure of putting 21 close contacts of the vessel in quarantine, though none of the crew disembarked the vehicle. All 21 have returned negative tests so far.

Meanwhile, Samoa remains under Alert Level 1 in its national COVID-19 response matrix. Mask use and social distancing are encouraged but not mandatory, and state of emergency restrictions remain in force.

There are no more incoming repatriation flights this year, and there are currently approximately 400 people in quarantine, which will end on Wednesday 23 December.

The full statement from the N.E.O.C.:

“The container ship - Island Chief has been cleared to travel to Samoa. This follows constant discussions between the NEOC through the SPA and MoH, the ship's agent, and Fiji's Health Ministry. Ten of the 12 member crew have been retested for COVID 19 and the results returned negative.

“The boat is expected to arrive at Matautu wharf early this week. All our health requirements apply such as a medical clearance and a negative COVID test for all the crew members. 

“The other two sailors who have been tested positive will remain in Fiji. 

“The protocol for entering our borders will be strictly applied as per COVID 19 protection process. This encompasses the team that will be servicing the boat to be in full PPE, masks, and gloves. This includes stevedoring service.”

Bg pattern light


Subscribe to Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy access to over a thousand articles per month, on any device as well as feature-length investigative articles.

Ready to signup?