Govt. extends State of Emergency into 2021

The Government has has extended the coronavirus pandemic State of Emergency (S.O.E.) for another month, with an the extension signed until Sunday 17 January 2021.

In a press release by the Government Press Secretariat, the Government confirmed the state of emergency will continue into its 10th month.

The state of emergency was first enacted in late March when the COVID-19 pandemic was fully sweeping the globe.

Commercial flights to Samoa were cancelled and the borders were closed, and a raft of emergency measures put in place like halting travel between Upolu and Savaii, and drastically limiting retail and hospitality hours.

The state of emergency orders also relax Cabinet and Parliament procedures, “so that decision making for the good of the country may continue,” the orders state.

After a month it was clear that Samoa had not inadvertently imported a case of COVID-19 before the borders closed and until now the island nation remains free of any locally acquired cases of the virus.

Samoa has repatriated two people who were previously infected with COVID-19, and are no longer contagious.

Inexperience with the way old infections are picked up by tests caused a flurry of panic across the country. Next year, Samoa will ask anyone previously infected with COVID-19 to wait six months, and submit to over three weeks before boarding a flight to Samoa.

Meanwhile, many of the restrictions designed to stop potential spread of the disease remain in place.

Supermarkets are forced to close at 7pm every day, and along with smaller grocery stores may only open from 3pm on Sundays. Vegetable markets have to close at 6pm.

Petrol stations, retailers and other commercial operations may not open on Sundays, and only hotels are allowed to serve food (albeit limited from noon to 10pm), while restaurants are limited to being takeaway only on Sundays.

During the week, all hospitality operations must close at 10pm, except for casinos which can remain open until 4am during the week, and midnight on Saturday.

Rules around public gatherings limit family celebrations to 100 people, even for weddings and funerals and combined church services.

Family reunions are officially restricted to just five people, as are graveside or committal services for funerals. 

Sunday bans still extend to the ferry between Upolu and Savaii, which is now allowed to make fuel transport trips but not carry people on Sundays.

Domestic flights are also permitted between the islands but for emergency medical trips only.

A full suite of expensive penalties remains in place also. Individual breaches of emergency orders re liable to pay $200 on their first offence and $500 on their second, while companies are liable to pay $5000 on their first offence or $7000 on their second.

A maximum of three months in custody is also on the cards. 

Using your New Zealand passport to leave Samoa and your Samoan passport to return can land you a $2000 fine, on top of the cost of quarantine here in Samoa. 

And breaching quarantine or not complying with quarantine rules is also worth a $2000 fine.

The latest full list of the state of emergency orders was published in early December and is the 34th iteration of the orders.  

Meanwhile the last repatriation flights for 2020 have landed, with just one scheduled so far for 2020 – a flight chartered especially for sailors and seafarers unable to previously travel home.

It is scheduled for Friday 22 January and should be carrying 297 sailors, many of whom will likely be looking for new contracts on board a ship later next year. 

Read the full emergency orders, republished below in Samoan and English.

State of Emergency Order 34, published 3 December 2020 by Sapeer Mayron on Scribd

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