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Fifteen fined for Sunday swimming

Some 147 people have been issued tickets for breaching state of emergency orders - including 15 people caught swimming on a Sunday, new figures released by the Police show.

Other breaches since the state of emergency was first declared in March include five businesses that traded on a Sunday; 31 people who violated a street vending ban; and 40 instances of overloaded public transport. 

Tautua Samoa Party President Afualo Luagalau Dr. Salele wants leniency for people fined at least $200 for swimming on a Sunday, which, while against the law, is, in his view, “nonsense.”

Afualo said while the restrictions are in place, people should follow the laws and avoid the financial or legal repercussions of breaking them. 

Offence


Tickets issued


Supermarket operating hours 44
Overloaded public transport 40
Street vendor working 31
Swimming on a Sunday 15
Public gathering (church, bingo) 5
Business open on Sunday 5
Selling alcohol when banned 3
Business open late 2
Quarantine noncompliance 1

“I don’t want to entertain the thought that although there is no [coronavirus] that we are allowed to break the law. The law is the law,” he said.

Afualo said he accepts the restrictions on businesses, but not on swimming.

“It is the Government who are at the moment the ruler of the day, so they can dictate whatever they want even though we know the law is nonsense,” he said. 

“While it’s understood about trading on a Sunday because Samoa is a Christian country, […] I guess the Government is looking at keeping the Sunday holy.”

He urged the Government to relax restrictions, especially by the expiry of the current state of emergency (2 August) and to offer leniency to the people who were fined.

“It’s very unfortunate for those people who swam on a Sunday,” he said. 

“I can only hope that given the number of people that have been penalised because of breaking that Sunday law in terms of swimming, I hope they look into it and reconsider it, and open up the restrictions to people."

Last week Friday, Sunday trading rules were relaxed slightly, from a total ban on all business activities except those of small over-the-counter stores to allowing hotels to serve lunch and dinner and for restaurants to sell takeaways from 12 till 10pm.

Another new Sunday ban on the ferry between Savaii and Upolu remains in place, to the dismay of tourism operators in Savaii in particular.

In total, police have collected $34,200 in fines and issued 147 tickets for breaches of the state of emergency orders, including one for noncompliance with quarantine conditions.

In an email, Deputy Police Commissioner Papalii Monalisa Tiai Keti said since the state of emergency went into place at the end of March, tickets have been issued over 13 different kinds of breaches.

Breaches will land you with a $200 fine on the first offence and $500 for future offences. Businesses can expect a $5,000 fine on the first go and $7,000 on the next ones.

Anyone who does not comply with quarantine orders will be fined $2000.

People or businesses caught and then charged with an offence as well as fined are liable to a further fine up to $10,000 or a stint in prison of no more than a year, or both. 

Three businesses were caught and fined for selling alcohol when they shouldn’t have been, either on a Sunday or to a minor (under 21). 

The penalty for illegally selling alcohol is to have either or both business license and liquor licenses revoked until the state of emergency is over. 

One ticket was issued to someone failing to comply with quarantine conditions. It is not clear whether they left quarantine or broke other rules within it.

Supermarkets, with new and tightening opening hours, have also been caught for breaches. In total 35 tickets were given for staying open too late and nine were given out for being open too early. 

Buses were the worst offenders with 40 tickets given out to buses being overloaded with passengers when they should be only running at half capacity to maintain social distancing. 

As public gatherings of different sizes have been banned throughout the state of emergency, four churches and one bingo gathering were ticketed for breaking the rules.

Samoa is one of 12 United Nations member states without ever reporting COVID-19 cases.



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