Lolo requests suspension of Hawaiian Air flights through October
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Due to the unstable heath situation in Hawaii, as well as the US mainland with continued spikes in the number of coronavirus cases, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga told cabinet members last week that he has requested Hawaiian Airlines to continue the suspension of flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago through the end of October.
“We can take October off the schedule with no flights next month,” Lolo said during the cabinet meeting last Wednesday at the American Samoa Community College.
Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Hawaiian spokesman, Alex Da Silva said from Honolulu last Friday morning, that he is “confirming that we will comply with the governor's request.”
Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Lolo explained that the continued suspension of Hawaiian flights through the end of October stems from the continued increase in COVID-19 cases in Hawaii as well as several states on the US mainland.
He reminded cabinet members that it’s very important that the “decisions we make” ensure the protection of the public’s health. He acknowledged that these are challenging times, and then revealed that he and his family have received some unpleasant calls from those who are unhappy with the continued closure of borders with Hawaii.
He said it’s one of the reasons there is a governor — to receive such unpleasant calls — and he requested cabinet directors to share with “our people stranded off island” the reason for continued suspension of flights and that it is to protect the community.
The stranded passengers, “are our people, our brothers, sisters” and family members, said Lolo, who again offered public apologies to “our people” impacted by suspension of flights. He said he fully understands their frustrations as well as the challenges and difficulties they continue to face in these difficult times.
However, that doesn’t take away the need for the government to protect the rest of the community, according to the governor, who hopes that by the end of October there is some major change in the COVID-19 pandemic with cases in the US, especially in Hawaii decreasing.
As of 12 noon Saturday, Sept. 19th, Hawaii recorded a total of 11,326 confirmed cases — with 10,218 on the island of Oahu — and 120 deaths, according to the state’s Health Department public records.
There was no mention during the cabinet meeting of a repatriation flight from the U.S. although, the local Health Department presented its preliminary plan for such a flight, if it’s approved by the governor, who instructed Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua to submit this plan to the ASG coronavirus task force early this week for review — before its presented to the governor and lieutenant governor for a final decision. (See Samoa News edition Sept. 18th for details.)
The Governor’s Chief of Staff, Fiu J. Saelua did note towards the end of the cabinet meeting that the final government exercise — with a scenario of a repatriation flight with 300 passengers on board — would be carried out this week Thursday.
He said the special committee tasked with coordinating this exercise has been conducting test-exercises in the past several days and invited cabinet members to the final exercise to provide a “critique but not criticism”.
NEW OPEN BORDERS PETITION
Meanwhile a new online petition was launched last Friday morning by Siai Gapelu, calling on the American Samoa government to open the territory’s borders, with the initial goal of the petition to get 500 signatures. As of yesterday morning (Sunday) the petition had garnered 299 supporters.
“There is a very pressing matter at hand,” the petition states in part. “Not only to me but many other Samoans who reside in American Samoa or have big ties to the island through family or business.”
“My parents left to American Samoa in February 2020 to re-plant a church and receive the Pastoral Baton from my grandfather who has Pastored that church for over 40+ years,” it says.
“The original plan was to come home after 2 weeks of being there but Covid hit and the borders were shut down. That was very understandable as this virus hit our nation hard,” the petition notes.
The petition made claims that the governor “has been making empty promises to the island and those stuck off island about the borders reopening. First it was said to reopen in July, then August, then September and now another empty promise made for October.”
“Together, we can put families back together again,” according to the petition [www.change.org/p/american-samoa-government-open-american-samoa].
A local resident “stuck in California”, signed the petition, saying that, “I am living paycheck to paycheck, have to keep up with bills for my life in Am.Samoa and my current living situation in CA.”
Another person commented, “I think it’s time people return to their families. And I believe together we work to make it safe for everyone.”
Samoa News have been unable to find any evidence from cabinet meetings, COVID-19 task force meetings and COVID-19 declarations of the governor making any promises — as claimed in the petition — to reopen borders in July and up to this month.
The governor has publicly raised concerns — including in his declarations — over the spikes in the number of virus cases in Hawaii and the US as the reason for continuing the suspension of Hawaiian Airlines flights.