DoH issues revised travel advisory but it is ‘subject to change’
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Following recommendations by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and other ASG officials, the Health Department issued a revised travel advisory dated last Friday - and “effective immediately” - to hopefully lessen confusion from previous advisories.
DoH also added what it calls “some necessary concepts to address questions” it continues to receive from the public at this critical time of the governor’s state of emergency declaration in “protecting the livelihood of our territory” from the ongoing measles outbreak and prevent the spread of the deadly new coronavirus from reaching American Samoa.
DoH said the latest travel advisory “is subject to change due to the daily coronavirus updates”.
A lot of questions and confusion - among local residents and business travelers - deal with passengers traveling beyond Samoa to other Pacific nations, such as New Zealand, and Fiji - before returning to the territory. Those inquiries are clarified through the new advisory which also covers local residents who travels beyond Tonga.
According to DoH, all travelers including U.S passport holders and American Samoa permanent residents “going beyond” Samoa - e.g. Australia, Fiji, New Zealand etc. - “must adhere” to the following requirements:
• spend 14 days in Samoa
• acquire a health exam ONLY from Samoa Ministry of Health three days (day 11 of the 14 days) before entry
• provide proof of MMR vaccination 14 days before entry
US passport holders and American Samoa residents who travel to Samoa and back will NOT be required to stay in Samoa for 14 days and acquire a health exam. The same requirements cover US passport holders and American Samoa residents who travel to and from Tonga, as well as travelers “going beyond Tonga”.
For example, those traveling “beyond Tonga” and returning to American Samoa must spend 14 days in Tonga; acquire a health exam ONLY from Tonga Ministry of Health (MOH) three days (day 11 of the 14 days) before entry; and provide proof of MMR vaccination 14 days before entry.
DoH re-emphasized Samoa’s entry requirement for travelers transiting through Pago Pago from Hawaiian Airlines - that they are required to obtain a health exam clearance 3 days before traveling to Samoa.
FLIGHTS TO AND FROM HAWAII
New requirements added in the travel advisory deal with flights from Hawaii. DoH says all travelers from “affected foreign countries” entering American Samoa through Hawaii must spend 14 days in Hawaii; and acquire a health exam 3 days (day 11 of the 14 days) before entry.
“Travelers to Hawaii are not subject to any requirements at this time,” said DoH.
The federal government has designated Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu as one of the 11 U.S. airports where all flights from mainland China are diverted to for coronavirus screening.
According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), its operations at the Honolulu airport cover Hawaii and the US Pacific territories including American Samoa. Over the weekend, Honolulu-based Hawaii News Now reported that beginning this week, Hawaii should be able to test for coronavirus at the State Laboratory. Test results from the CDC in Atlanta can take a week or longer.
Hawaii Health director Bruce Anderson said Hawaii is offering to run tests on samples from Guam and American Samoa. (The Hawaii state laboratory is already conducting tests for measles samples from American Samoa.)
REQUIRED DOH CLEARANCE DOCUMENTS
The Tafuna Community Health Center is the only DoH clinic authorized to issue a health exam clearance. DoH re-stated the required documents for a health clearance:
• signed immigration form
• valid copy of passport and copies of passport pages showing stamps at ports of entry and departure in the past 30 days before entry
• proof of MMR vaccination 14 days before entry
• copy of round trip ticket
OTHER ISSUES - CORONAVIRUS
DoH reiterated its earlier recommendation that all persons intending to travel to any country affected by the coronavirus - or the 2019 Novel Coronavirus - postpone their trip unless necessary; and all travelers from “affected foreign countries” entering American Samoa “will either be subject to a mandatory 14 day quarantine, denied entry, or will be returned to the country of last port.”
“One confirmed case of....coronavirus in neighboring countries will prompt DoH to recommend border closure,” the advisory states.
The Associated Press reported Saturday afternoon that the coronavirus, which began last December in Wuhan, China, has infected more than 37,500 people globally - with 34,546 confirmed cases and 722 deaths on mainland China.
For the US, there are now 12 confirmed cases while in the Pacific region, Australia is the only one reporting confirmed cases at 14. There are cases in other Asian countries, such as the Philippines, which has one death reported. Some local residents from the Philippines tell Samoa News that they are worried about their relatives back home and are keeping up with the situation through an online message group.
“With a lot of travel restrictions and concerns here in American Samoa over the coronavirus, many of us are just checking on the message group for updates with no immediate plans to leave the territory,” said a Filipino local resident.
Call the measles/coronavirus hotline at 633-5871/5872 for questions or for more information.