Fiame confirms negotiations with N.Z., American Samoa

Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa has confirmed that Samoa has begun negotiations with New Zealand and American Samoa on the potential of opening travel bubbles.

Speaking in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) leader said the start of the negotiations didn’t mean there would be an immediate opening of Samoa’s international borders.

"One significant recommendation to Cabinet was the beginning of negotiations between Samoa and New Zealand, Samoa and American Samoa with regards to the possibility of opening up of borders and travel between the two countries," Fiame said.

She said the travel bubble negotiations are complex as it is not just about what New Zealand and American Samoa want, but also the prevailing conditions in that country and American territory.

"You might have also heard earlier in the week that the New Zealand Government made an announcement that their R.S.E. programme will restart in September for Samoa, Vanuatu and Tonga and this will be done with a non-quarantine requirement,” she said.

“So this is an indication, I suppose, that can take a lead with these negotiations that our officials here in Samoa will begin with both New Zealand and American Samoa.”

In a press conference on Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that their Cabinet has made the decision to open up one-way quarantine-free travel to New Zealand from Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu for R.S.E. workers, without having to use the New Zealand Government’s managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system.

"While there may not be travel from all three immediately, we’re working towards this opening up in September," Prime Minister Ardern said.

"This policy will open up the ability for significantly more workers to enter the country to assist with an expected peak demand for workers in February and March of 2022. 

"While we are currently bringing in 150 R.S.E. workers every 16 days, this new one-way travel policy will significantly expand the potential workforce available for those experiencing labour shortages. 

“We’ll also have the potential to free up existing MIQ spaces set aside for R.S.E. workers. “Our intention is that any quarantine-free travel arrangements would be one way, for entering New Zealand only.

"Travellers would still undergo quarantine on return to their home country as has been their home country’s policy. 

“This expectation has been made clear to the countries that we are talking to.”

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