Vaccine hopes for seasonal workers

The Government of Samoa is hoping the 700 seasonal workers headed for New Zealand’s fields will be vaccinated while they are over there.

National Emergency Operations Centre Interim Chair Agafili Shem Leo told the Samoa Observer that while it is not up to Samoa, it would be a great benefit to the seasonal workers if they could get vaccinated while overseas.

The 700 workers are the first group to be deployed for seasonal labour since the pandemic closed borders in March 2020. 

Many of them were stuck overseas in New Zealand or Australia and had to be repatriated back to Samoa, and will be leaving for at least six or seven months.

“They will be there for a period of seven months, possibly more, so they will be there for a long time and we hope they will be able to be part of the NZ Government vaccination programme for COVID-19,” Agafili said.

“I hope they will be part of it. It will be an advantage for our workers. It will be good for them to be vaccinated and see how their bodies will respond too.”

Still overseas are at least 3000 Samoans who have registered their desire to come home. After a holiday break for frontline workers, repatriation flights will resume at the end of this month, with the first flight of sailors scheduled for Friday 22 January. 

The next scheduled repatriation flights are for around 900 seasonal workers whose contracts were extended in 2020. They will be arriving on Friday 12 February, Friday 5 March and Friday 26 March. 

The flights are three weeks apart so that there is room to extend the 14-day quarantine to three weeks.

This will happen if someone in quarantine tests positive for COVID-19, Director-General of Health Leausa Dr. Take Naseri explained.

Future repatriation flights have not been scheduled yet, and Agafili said the N.E.O.C. will offer Cabinet advice as it sees fit.

“The Government will look into it and it will be reviewed depending on the situation and what they see fit. If it does continue the Committee will offer advice.”

Agafili confirmed Samoa is still in talks with its neighbours over a travel bubble with quarantine free travel, but this may depend on vaccination now.

“New Zealand will start rolling out as early as February, and then Samoa as Leausa said maybe in March and if results come with good results, that will be the foundation of those type of deliberations,” he said.

Leausa also confirmed there is still an opportunity for returning citizens to do their two week quarantine at home, if their home meets all the requirements such as having a gate, and being a safe distance from neighbours.

But neighbours will be given the opportunity to object if they need to, he said.

“Though, we are still monitoring this variant and the easy transmission to see if home quarantine should still continue, or make it compulsory for everyone to be quarantined in a managed isolation site until after either 14 or 21 days,” he added.                

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