All incoming cruise ships halted
The Government has temporarily halted all cruise ships docking in Samoa until further notice, bringing the number of cancellations to a total of five since December and the economic toll to more than hundreds of thousands of tala.
Samoa, already reeling from two cruise ship cancellations related to the measles epidemic, has just been hit with its third cruise ship cancellation following efforts to contain the spread of the corona virus onto Samoan shores.
Samoa Ports Authority (S.P.A.) Chief Executive Officer, So'oalo Kuresa So'oalo confirmed that a ban on cruise ships docking in Apia has been in force since late last week.
"I can confirm that is the case now since last Friday 21st February 2020 when the [Ministry of Health] issued updated travel advisory," he responded to an email from the Samoa Observer.
The economic toll of the cancellations is not yet known.
Sooalo told of the approximately $200,000 lost in the Authority's revenue due to the recent string of cruise ship cancellations.
But in addition to paying fees to dock, the cancellations have deprived the tourism sector and broader economy of the economic flow-on effects from thousands of visitors expected to bring money into the economy.
Public health authorities have deemed the ships floating incubators as they bring together people from different nationalities in confined spaces. Dozens of passengers caught the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship earlier this month and were evacuated to their countries of origin.
Asked about any indication of how long the cruise ship prohibition might be in place, So'oalo directed questions to the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.), saying the decision was solely decided by the Ministry.
The S.P.A.'s General Manager, So’oalo Kuresa So’oalo, said the four cancellations have affected the Authority’s collection of port charges, which were to be levied on the ships upon entry.
“Our budgeted revenue for the current financial year included these cruise revenues but it’s lost revenue now,” he said.
“[We have] lost approximately $200,000 tala.”
Other sea port entries are still required to be screened at the quarantine buoy before docking at the Matautu wharf, the advisory states.
The most recent travel advisory adds Italy on Samoa's restricted countries list.
All travelers from Italy now require 14 days of self quarantine in a country without cases of the coronavirus before they make their way to Samoa with a medical clearance.
"This is following the dramatic increase of cases from less than 10 on Friday to more than 150 cases in less than 72 hours, with 3 deaths," the advisory reads.
"In the event you arrive within the 14 day period as noted above, you will be returned to the country of last port before arrival in Samoa."
This brings the total number of countries in Samoa's blacklist to eight, including China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea which was added just last week.
Iran has also been added to the list of countries from which passengers are required to receive a medical check within 3 days of their arrival in Samoa. Other than Iran includes countries such as, Taiwan, Malaysia, Australia, Vietnam, United Arab Emirates, USA - California, France, Germany, and Canada.
This medical clearance is required prior to check-in and the issuance of boarding passes.