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Samoa extends Covid-19 state of emergency — now into 4th month

Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi
Stranded Pacific workers will be returned home on chartered flights
Source: RNZ Pacific

Apia, SAMOA — Samoa has extended the COVID-19 State of Emergency for another month, taking the country to an unprecedented four-month lockdown.

Samoa Observer reports that Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi announced that as long as there is still a threat of the virus reaching Samoa "we will continue to close our borders".

Some of the emergency orders were eased last month especially rules governing public gatherings like church services, weddings and spectator sports.

Government approved repatriation flights have been opened up from New Zealand and American Samoa.

All travelers from New Zealand must go through a 14-day quarantine period unlike passengers from the territory who do no have to.

The Prime. Minister said a few passengers who had returned to the country from Auckland last week remain under close observation after displaying flu-like symptoms.

"There are about three who have been showing signs of the flu and were taken away to be isolated in the hospital and to be kept under close observation," he said.

"Because at the moment, it is the absolute cold season in New Zealand, the month of July is the peak of winter in New Zealand and also for us, that's the reason why we are keeping a close eye on those people."

He said seasonal workers who are stranded in New Zealand are being left to their employers to arrange for their travel back to Samoa.

Meanwhile, RNZ Pacific is reporting Samoa's RSE workers who finished their contracts in May and June will be returned home on chartered flights organized by the New Zealand horticulture industry.

The date for the first flight is yet to be finalised but an assistant CEO of Samoa's Ministry of Labour who is the head of the RSE division, Lemalu Nele Leilua, said the horticulture industry agreed to be responsible after a meeting last week.

This comes after reports of stranded seasonal employees getting homesick as well frustrated for not knowing when they could go back home.

Lemalu said some of the families in Auckland asked the employees who are relatives to leave their working bubbles and spend time with them before returning home.

But she has strongly warned the families not to do so because of Covid-19 pandemic safety measures.

The head of the RSE division said workers who spend time with families will go into quarantine in New Zealand for 14 days before boarding flights and will also spend another 14 days in quarantine on arrival.

She emphasises the importance for workers to continue staying in the working places for their safety from the spread of the coronavirus but to also protect Samoa who is still Covid-19 free.

Lemalu revealed that some of the 140 RSE workers who returned on the second special flight from New Zealand a week ago had been spending time with their families in Auckland.