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Repatriation flights moved to three weeks interval

Increasing concerns over the spike in COVID-19 cases in New Zealand and Australia has compelled the Government to direct that repatriation flights from Auckland fly in every three weeks.

National Emergency Operations Centre (N.E.O.C.) Chairman, Ulu Bismarck Crawley, told the Samoa Observer in a telephone interview of the new repatriation flights arrangement and added that the flight this Friday is the last weekly passenger flight.

“We’re looking at the next flight [this Friday}, it will be three weeks time [before the next one]. We’ve predicted this to the Government [last week] due to the increase in cases of Covid-19 in Australia and New Zealand and that’s a worry for us,” he said.

“So we’re looking at the interval of three weeks and so the flight that’s yet to arrive this Friday on the seventh, the following one after that will possibly arrive on the 28th after three weeks.”

The weekly air freight service remains unchanged, according to the amended state of emergency [S.O.E.] orders released by the Government Monday night.

The Ministry of Health [M.O.H.] on August 3 declared Samoa COVID-19 free following the successful quarantine of recently arrived passengers in the country.

“Samoa is Covid-19 free and we wish to eliminate any potential risk for Covid-19 to be introduced into Samoa. We cannot at this stage rule out any exposure you may have had in the last few days and even exposure during the flight to Samoa.”

Initially, the quarantine protocol standards set up by the N.E.O.C was for 15 quarantine sites, which divided arriving passengers into groups of 10 people.

But Ulu said that the passenger arrival numbers have skyrocketed with 10-plus people now being quarantined as a group.

A number of churches have stepped forward and offered their buildings to be used as quarantine sites for returning citizens, besides selected hotels and guest houses, according to Ulu.

To date close to 1,000 passengers have tested negative for COVID-19 and were released by the M.O.H. from quarantine. During previous repatriation flights, stranded Kiwis in Samoa returned home through those flights. 

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