Friday's repatriation flight likely last for now
A repatriation flight to Apia from Auckland on Friday is expected to be the last to arrive for three weeks or more as the Government moves to prevent quarantine facilities from becoming overwhelmed.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer in an interview last week, the Chairman of the National Emergency Operation Centre (N.E.O.C), Ulu Bismarck Crawley confirmed that the flight will arrive with over 300 passengers on board.
“We’re expecting one more repatriation flight [on Friday],” he said.
The decision to pause the repatriation flights has been made to manage an overflow in quarantine facilities, Ulu said.
According to Ulu, the break in the flights’ operation will possibly continue for three weeks or until further notice.
Initially, the quarantine protocol standardised by the N.E.O.C was for Samoa to operate 15 quarantine sites, which grouped passengers into groups of 10. But Ulu said that skyrocketing arrivals numbers had forced the Government to abandon these limits.
A number of churches have stepped forward and offered their buildings to be used as quarantine sites for returning citizens alongside selected hotels and guest houses, according to Ulu.
About 1000 passengers have been released from quarantine after being declared negative of COVID-19.
The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielagaoi, revealed the repatriation pause plans during TV1 Samoa’s “Taimi ma le Palemia” programme on Monday this week.
Tuilaepa said Samoa remained virus-free.
In response to the state of emergency and to ensure public safety, the general public Government is restricting access to the following sites at the following times:
- The International Port and Faleolo International Airport (Friday 24 July 2020: 12am-12pm)
- All designated quarantine Sites (24 July – 7 August 2020 at all times)
Only personnel authorised by the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) and the N.E.O.C. are permitted to enter the sites.
Any person who contravenes the restrictions will commit a criminal offence and be liable for a penalty under the Orders of the State of Emergency or the provisions of the Disaster and Emergency Management Act 2007.