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Samoa’s health boss says reports of possible border restrictions due to COVID-19 'not correct'

Aiono Dr Alec Ekeroma

Apia, SAMOA — The Samoa health chief has shot down media reports the country is "considering" border restrictions due to a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases.

Director-general of health Aiono Dr Alec Ekeroma confirmed to RNZ Pacific that recent media reports suggesting that border restrictions were being considered were incorrect.

"No, that's not correct. I have never said that [looking into border restrictions because of COVID]," he said.

Aiono said the Ministry of Health may recommend to the government increasing COVID-19 testing at the airport but not to restrict flights. 

"We might, of course, recommend to government that we have widespread testing at the airport if the numbers stack up.

"But right now, we haven't made that recommendation to government, only government can actually articulate closing of borders or restrictions at borders."

He estimates there are about 30 COVID cases in Samoa and this number is expected to increase.

Aiono said the health authorities were only testing people arriving into the country who declared in their arrivals form that they were "symptomatic".

"We are actually putting up signs there to say if you are symptomatic then we have a testing station there. We're not testing everyone because we don't want to affect the movement of people in the airports just yet.

"We're only testing those who present and who are symptomatic.

The Ministry of Health are asking the community to get their COVID-19 booster shots.

Aiono said the health ministry would resort to carrying out COVID-19 tests at airports, should a recent covid spike become faster.

"As long as we don't have severe disease and people are not admitted to hospital to our intensive care unit, for example, then we will just remain testing those who are symptomatic.

"We have advised our community to obtain their COVID boosters because that will protect the community and the public."

However, he said the country response to the booster shots had been "poor".  

"I'm hoping really that with more news of increasing COVID numbers in Samoa, those who are at high risk of getting severe disease will come forward to have the boosters done." 

The country is set for an influx of Christmas holiday makers.