Changes to travel rules effective

New entry to Samoa rules have come into effect, including a ban on people recovered from COVID-19 and a fresh list of travel bans as a new strain of the virus circulates the globe.

Anyone who had COVID-19 in 2020 and wants to get to Samoa now has to wait six months from their first positive test then pass three tests seven days apart before preparing to travel.

They are also required to take a blood test for COVID-19 five days before their departure, and if possible provide the genome sequencing of their infection to the Ministry of Health.

These rules are for both travellers to Samoa and flight and sea crew too.

For more travellers with no history of COVID-19, pre-departure testing has been ramped up to both a negative PCR and blood test, done within three and five days before boarding.

This is as well as a full medical clearance to travel. 

The Ministry of Health, which signs of the travel requirements, also reserves the right to increase quarantine from 14 days to 21 days.

Interim Chair of the National Emergency Operations Centre Agafili Shem Leo has been approached for comment.

Though many countries are now beginning vaccination campaigns, the COVID-19 pandemic is showing few signs of abating with a fresh variant circulating the globe.

Last week, Samoa banned travellers from the United Kingdom and South Africa in a bid to avoid the new variant reaching Samoa.

This week 13 more countries, including Australia, have been added to the travel ban. The rules require that people headed for Samoa not come from or transit through any of the following: Spain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, France, Singapore, Nigeria, Canada, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Jordan and Lebanon.

According to the Ministry of Health, this list is being reviewed daily.

On Friday 22 January Samoa is expected to welcome nearly 300 stranded sailors home from various ports all over the world.

There are no more scheduled repatriation flights currently.

Agafili has been approached on whether this flight will be affected by the latest changes to travel rules.

The new COVID-19 variant appeared in late December. It is now referred to as B.1.1.7, and is reported to be more contagious but does not cause more severe disease, according to Public Health England.

Meanwhile Samoa remains one of a handful of countries never to have recorded a case of the virus. Two people have arrived having been infected in the past but were not active cases of the virus and so not counted as locally acquired cases.

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