State of emergency extended for four weeks
State of emergency orders to prevent the arrival of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on Samoa's shores will be extended for another four weeks, meaning the country's borders will remain totally closed, Cabinet determined on Friday.
Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi made the announcement on Friday following an initial 14 days S.O.E. effective on 21 March 2020 to be expired on Saturday, 4th April 2020.
Tuilaepa said only the extension of the state of emergency for another month will guarantee that the country will be free from COVID-19.
“It is only when we don’t have any incoming flights for the next four weeks that we can assure that we are free from the virus,” said the Prime Minister.
“Even for those citizens from America or Japan who intend to return to their respective countries they [flight attendance] will be forbidden to get off the plane."
The Prime Minister said prevention was better than cure. But he did say that the orders would be revised and the possibility of amending certain restrictions could be made known as soon as next week.
He said an example of possible changes to the orders might include extending supermarkets' opening hours to 6pm from their current enforced closing times of 4pm.
International travels will continue to be prohibited entirely, the Prime Minister said.
“Those being quarantined at sea will have to remain there for two weeks then they can come to port [if cleared from COVID-19]," Tuilaepa said.
Tuilaepa pointed out COVID-19 continues to peak across the world with the total number of cases around now surpassing one million and having doubled in a week.
Tuilaepa also made reference to reports of the worldwide death toll from the virus passing 50,000 people and the infection rates in the United States continuing to rise. Nearly 250,000 cases have now been confirmed in America, the country with the most confirmed cases in the world.
In signing the extension into law this evening His Highness the Head of State, Tuimaleali'ifano Va'aletoa Sualauvi II, was “satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the health, security or economic life of Samoa is threatened by a catastrophe", according to a Government statement.
The Prime Minister said perhaps one of the biggest advantages of the state of emergency is seeing parents spending time with their children and sparing time to pray and fellowship.
He said that even spouses who normally used to spend the evening at the pub have had a change of routine over the period and are spending more time at home.
However, an order restricting travel for passengers between Upolu and Savai’i will not apply to Members of Parliament who are intending to cross the island to attend a special parliament sitting next week.
There are currently 259 returning residents from New Zealand and Fiji being quarantined for 14 days in eight different sites. The figure does not include 17 crew members of the MV Lady Samoa III that are being isolated at sea.
Nine of those under quarantined are children who are 5 years and under with 38 of them are those in 60 years and over.
The rest are passengers in the age group of 5 to 59.
The latest report from the Ministry of Health confirmed that a flight attendant from the Samoa Airways Air Malindo crew is being isolated and under investigation at the hospital suspected with COVID-19.
Samoa has no confirmed cases of the virus but six tests taken from patients who are suspected of possibly having the virus remain in a hospital lab following the closure of the country's borders. (Previous tests had been sent to New Zealand for confirmatory testing).
The Health Ministry says it is awaiting the arrival of testing kits.