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American Samoa has been “immeasurably blessed” — still no COVID in the territory

A young man named Troy receives a gift from Paul Young on behalf of Rotary Club of Pago Pago
Gov : Send the gift of love and peace to our families here and abroad

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa joins Christians around the world in celebrating the birth of Christ at the stroke of midnight tonight. But it’s already Christmas in other parts of the world — such as neighboring Samoa and other Pacifika countries.

Celebrating Christmas this year is not as merry as it was in past years as countries around the world impose strict restrictions on public gatherings — and some locations even stay-home orders are in place — to combat the continuing increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, a deadly pandemic from which American Samoa has been spared, but not other countries including the US which has seen the number of deaths rise to over 300,000.

International news outlets are reporting that people in some countries are not even allowed to visit their neighbors or families, in an effort to curb the spike in the coronavirus.

“This Christmas will be exceptionally memorable because we have been immeasurably blessed, for in spite of the turmoil and the excruciating pain and suffering being felt around the world because of the deadly effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Territory has been spared from the ravages of the coronavirus, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said in his final public Christmas message before stepping down as chief executive before 12noon on Jan. 3, 2021.

The governor noted the “exceedingly difficult” year for residents, “particularly our residents stranded off-island as the measles and the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly changed the way we live our lives and have forced all of us to make personal sacrifices including living apart from our families for an extended period of time.”

He called on residents to send “well wishes of joy and happiness along with our gift of love, and our gift of peace to all our families here and abroad accompanied by our prayers of hope and aspiration for a tomorrow that will be free from the coronavirus pandemic, divisiveness, [and] suffering…”

The governor also sent out special holiday greetings to sons and daughters of American Samoa serving in the US Armed Forces in every corner of the world.

As “you stand guard to protect the freedoms that we have taken for granted, let the spirit of Christmas fill your hearts with the assurance that you are all in our hearts along with our continual prayer vigil beseeching God to keep you safe until you return home,” is the governor’s message to our Toa o Samoa.

Christmas is a special day for Christians, and especially locally — where church is intricately woven into the fine mat of the Samoan culture.

This time of the year, many usually spend Christmas with families and friends, following church services. A tradition for the Methodist church is the “manuao”, which is carried out after Christmas Eve service, during which church members visit homes and sing until around 3a.m or 4a.m. Families usually provide gifts in return.

But the usual Christmas Eve church service and other usual holiday activities have either been scaled back, canceled, or moved to daylight on Christmas Day as current COVID-19 restrictions allow houses of worship to open only from 5a.m to 9p.m.

This time-frame restriction also applies to businesses such as bars and nightclubs and therefore they won’t be holding those usual large Christmas Eve parties after 9p.m. And be forewarned, police will be out in full force, as the Public Safety Department has commenced their annual holiday enforcement, which started last Friday evening.

Since Monday this week — also the ASG payday — traffic in town, in front of the Post Office — as well as heading west has been very busy. Some motorists coming from Fagatogo heading west spent two hours in the traffic slowdown that started from Fatumafuti.

Traffic is expected to be very busy again today, especially in the Laufou area and in front of Neil’s ACE Home Center.

Some stores will stay open late today up to 7p.m or 8p.m to accommodate last minute shoppers. Grocery stores and retailers said last week that they are prepared for the Christmas rush — and they are banking on holiday shopping to increase revenues.

Lolo has already declared tomorrow Dec. 25th a government holiday. All government offices will be closed. The majority of the territory’s businesses — including the two banks and all federal offices locally and in the US — will be closed tomorrow.

At StarKist Samoa, production shutdown was last week Friday, for the usual two-week end-of-the-year down time, and work resumes Jan. 4, 2021.

From all of us at Samoa News: “Merry Christmas American Samoa, especially our Toa o Samoa and stranded residents.” Please stay safe and healthy — one & all.