Government eases Sunday inter-island ferry service

The Sunday inter-island travel ban that was enforced nine months ago has finally been lifted allowing one ferry service from Savai’i to Upolu on the day.

The amendment is one of several changes to the state of emergency (S.O.E.) orders that were announced by the Government Press Secretariat on Wednesday this week. 

Effective on Thursday 7 January 2021, the enabling of the inter-island ferry service allows for one trip from Savai’i at 5 p.m. which will dock at the Mulifanua wharf for the night. 

Interim Chairman of National Emergency Operation Centre (N.E.O.C.), Agafili Shem Leo, said the latest change is in addition to the Sunday ferry service that ships cargo.

In a press conference on Thursday morning, Agafili said the ferry trip that will now take on passengers will travel from Savai’i to Upolu on Sundays. 

In April last year, the Government banned inter-island travel on Sundays as part of its preventative measures to mitigate risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The ban also extended to other trading services on Sundays such as the fish market and Fugalei market being closed coupled with limited trading hours for supermarkets.

The reopening of the Sunday ferry travel has been welcomed by hotel operators in Savai’i, such as the Amoa Resort Savai’i, which urged the public to book a getaway in the big island. 

The President of the Samoa Hotel Association, Tupa’i Saleimoa Va’ai, had in the past appealed to the Government to reconsider the ban on the Sunday inter-island ferry service.

At the time, Tupa’i said the operators had dropped their rates in order to capitalise on the domestic tourism market, and the Sunday travel restrictions was a hurdle to travellers’ plans to go to the big island for the weekend.

Since the restrictions on inter-island travel on Sundays went into effect there have been exceptions for medical emergency cases that need to be transported to the Moto’otua hospital on Upolu.

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