Sailors' repatriation scheduled for January: P.M.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi says sailors who are stranded in the U.S. after a repatriation flight from Los Angeles was canceled can expect to be home by January.

Tuilaepa made the announcement after an earlier repatriation flight scheduled for 27 November was cancelled at the last minute, following two arriving passengers testing positive for the virus while in quarantine in the country. 

The Prime Minister made the announcement during his weekly programme TV3 Ma le Palemia on Wednesday evening and said the matter was discussed by the Cabinet this week.

The earlier cancelled Los Angeles flight would have brought sailors directly from the United States to Faleolo International Airport.

The Cabinet is thinking about flying the sailors home in January, he said, noting the decision to cancel the earlier flight was made to ensure public safety.

The sailors won’t fly directly to Samoa but they will transit through New Zealand.

In New Zealand, sailors must complete all required medical check-ups before they return to Samoa, said Tuilaepa.

America is reporting hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 cases daily, he added. 

The Johns Hopkins University data shows that more than 184,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in America on Thursday. 

The Prime Minister attributed the COVID-19 crisis in America to the current administration of U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

Transfer of power in America takes place on 20 January, when President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will be sworn into office during their inauguration.

Things are expected to improve when Biden and Harris take office, said Tuilaepa.

After the new administration is sworn in, the Samoa government will make plans for the repatriation of the sailors.

The U.S. is recording 100,000 COVID-19 cases daily, the Prime Minister added.

“It’s like people in America don’t care anymore. If you die, you die,” he said and added that things will not change for the better until the new administration takes office.

The Cabinet also discussed allowing the Fiji government to fly a plane to Samoa to repatriate their citizens back to Fiji.

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