Samoa tightens borders after new COVID strain emerges

By Adel Fruean 01 December 2021, 10:47PM

All passengers from or transit from South Africa, Great Britain and Germany are not permitted to enter Samoa among a range of restrictions brought in by the Samoan Government in response to news a new 'omicron' strain of the virus had been discovered. 

The measures and restrictions, which include a requirement that children over 12 are fully vaccinated before entering the country, are contained in an updated travel advisory for travelers entering Samoa issued by the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.).

The new changes follow reports of a new variant, named Omicron being detected overseas which the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) has labeled the newly discovered strain as a "variant of concern." 

The variant, named Omicron, was first reported to W.H.O. from South Africa on 24, November 2021. However, the first known confirmed infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November this year.

According to the Health Ministry, all travelers will be assessed on a case-by-case basis before being granted permission to travel to Samoa.

“Your compliance with the conditions listed is imperative in ensuring the safety of all travelers and our people in Samoa,” it said in a statement.

“We endeavour to keep Samoa COVID-19 free.

“The Ministry of Health appreciates your full cooperation and patience on arrival as you may experience long delays.”

The Ministry said the current emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant was  imminently spreading to other countries; Samoa's borders are now closed to those which have been identified as high risks.

“These [countries] have been categorised as no travel. Entry is denied to all passengers from or transit through South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, and Zimbabwe, Great Britain, Belgium, Germany. They are not permitted to enter Samoa,” the Ministry said. 

“Countries of concern with the Omicron variant will be closely monitored. These include: Israel, Hong Kong and Australia; all passengers from these countries must submit all documents to the Ministry of Health within 24 hours before travel departure for entry approval.

“Airline carriers are encouraged to conduct pre-departure screening of passengers for signs and symptoms including temperature check and general condition. Any abnormal finding will be denied boarding.

“All those who wish to travel to Samoa please contact the Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade or The Chairman of the Disaster Advisory Committee or any of Samoa's Mission Office overseas to register a flight.

“All Travelers age 12 years and above including flight crew are now required to be fully vaccinated with the prescribed 2 doses, with the exception of Janssen vaccine before entry into Samoa with any COVID-19 vaccine and preferably vaccines already pre-qualified by the World Health Organization (AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Janssen-single dose, Moderna, Sinopharm).

The Ministry has also advised that a legitimate vaccine certificate is required for boarding  completed two weeks prior to travel. 

“A hard copy of the vaccine certificate must be presented at check in and on arrival into Samoa for sighting and also during registration at quarantine/isolation facilities,” the M.O.H. said. 

“A negative [COVID-19] test is still required to be taken within 72 hours of departure from the originating airport. The lab result must be presented in hard copy on arrival into Samoa.”

Passengers must still have a medical clearance and must also be signed, stamped and fully completed by a General Practitioner within 120 hours of their departure. The medical clearance must be presented in hard copy on arrival into Samoa.

“All passengers with a legitimate vaccination certificate are exempted from doing blood serology. Failure to provide a legitimate vaccination certificate will result in no boarding,” the Ministry said. 

Only children 11 years and under and others who satisfy the exemption criteria for vaccination according to the vaccine policy in their country of origin will be allowed relaxed requirements.

But those with medical problems must email a written report from a registered medical officer stating the reasons for their exemption before departure - something that will still not guarantee passage into Samoa. 

“All passengers entering Samoa will go into quarantine for at least 14 days or as determined by the Ministry of Health” the Ministry said. 

“Any Passenger or Crew with a Positive COVID-19 rtPCR test is NOT allowed to enter Samoa, unless they have satisfied the following: 30 days have passed from date of the first negative test result following of the positive test; must provide genome sequencing test of the virus if available; must provide proof of three consecutive negative tests results on day 10, day five and day two before intended date of departure and must comply with all other requirements stated above.”

By Adel Fruean 01 December 2021, 10:47PM
Samoa Observer

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