UPDATE: DOH recommends keeping borders closed with Samoa
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Dept. of Health (DoH) has recommended keeping American Samoa’s borders closed with Samoa, even if the Independent state ends its state of emergency, while the governor has expressed appreciation to Hawaiian Airlines for protecting the lives of local residents, over its profits by suspending flights for 30-days.
DoH also recommends for two airlines to operate the Manu’a route to bring down the cost of airfares.
During the DoH presentation at last Sunday afternoon’s COVID-19 briefing, Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua noted that the Samoa government’s 30-day State of Emergency is expiring sometime this week.
However, DoH recommends to continue closing borders between Samoa and American Samoa, especially air service, he said noting that among the challenges faced by DoH is that its staff is stretched beyond capacity, maintaining checks on home quarantine passengers as well as those housed in DoH facilities, and ensuring security for full quarantine for emergency declaration.
Another challenge is making sure the internet connection works, so that medical personnel at quarantine sites are able to carry out their work remotely. There is also the challenge of ensuring sufficient living supplies — such as cots, blankets, soap — for the quarantine facilities.
DoH’s revised travel advisory and a provision of the governor’s emergency declaration require that all travelers from Samoa undergo full quarantine screening upon arrival.
Motusa also made another recommendation, to allow both Talofa Airways and Samoa Airways to operate the Manu’a route so that airfares will come down. He says Samoa Airways currently monopolizes the Manu’a flight route and is one of the reasons for the high fares. (Samoa Airways operates Manu’a flights under a cabotage waiver from the US Department of Transportation.)
He also says that Manu’a travelers are getting “stressed” having to go to the Governor’s Office, located at the AP Lutali Executive Office building in Utulei to pay their fares and then go to the airport. He recommend have a staffer from the Governor’s Office at the airport or nearby in Tafuna for travelers to pay fares and their cargo.
Motusa claims that some people don’t have cars and take taxis to get around to Utulei from their home and then to the airport.
As previously reported by Samoa News, ASG is chartering the Samoa government owned Samoa Airways aircraft, which is stationed in the territory, to operate Manu’a flights, since the inter-Samoa route is closed. Passengers pay for airfares at the Governor’s Office while Samoa Airways handles the airport operations side. (See Samoa News edition Mar. 27th for details.)
Based on a written request from Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga last Friday, Hawaiian Airlines suspended for 30-days, effective immediately, flights between Honolulu and American Samoa.
In a letter Monday this week, the governor expressed appreciation to airline president and chief executive officer, Peter R. Ingram for “your great sense of humanity and overwhelming compassion inherent in your decision to heed my humble plea for your help to reduce the risk of exposure by American Samoa residents to the deadly clasp of the COVID-19 disease.”
“It would be negligent, irresponsible, and thoughtless of me not to recognize with gratitude the most difficult decision you made placing the lives of the people of American Samoa before the financial viability of Hawaiian Airlines,” the governor wrote.
And the governor “fully realizes that the magnitude of your decision because of my request for instantaneous suspension of flights was unprecedented because it triggered a chain of events within the organization that often take weeks to orchestrate.”
“Your decision will be recorded in the annuals of our history for it contributed to whatever degree of success that we will achieve combating this deadly nemesis. God Bless you and Hawaiian Airlines,” he said — copies of his letter were also transmitted to the White House.
Meanwhile, the local Hawaiian office informed local partners and ASG officials that its operations are now closed until further notice. For questions and inquiries call the airline’s reservation center in the US 1-800-367-5320. Or visit online [www.hawaiianairlines.com].
Over the weekend, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) issued a notice saying that that all passengers who arrived in the territory between March 23 to March 25 and have not yet retrieved their luggage to please stop by the local Department of Homeland Security. Please bring your ID or passport for verification.