With no COVID-19 cases, American Samoa struggles to bring home residents stuck in Samoa
As American Samoa begins to reopen following the coronavirus pandemic, the American Samoan Government is planning to repatriate all of the residents of the territory that are stuck on Samoa. However, there are many questions surrounding how these people will return home.
Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga has made it a priority for his government to accomplish this goal. He wants all of them to be back in American Samoa this week, specifically mentioning June 10, 11, 12 as designated days for them to return. This is not an easy task, as it is imperative that they all be tested so that no one returns with Coronavirus. While his original goal was to bring all of the stranded residents home in the second week of June, only some of them made the trip. This decision was taken based on the limited number of government monitored places where they could quarantine following their return. The first repatriation flight returned on June 15, while the second arrived on June 27. The second flight means that 67% of the people who need to return to America Samoa have done so. In two weeks, the final flight will occur.
Testing is a problem, as Samoa only has 200 test kits. Governor Moliga’s original plan was for the America Samoan Department of Health officials to bring tests to Samoa, only to be faced with the possibility that the tests would be incompatible with local laboratories.
This is one of several problems that the government is facing. Another is the fact that there was a lack of preparation when planning for this situation. 300 people need to travel from Samoa to American Samoa, but the Department of Health only planned for 120. Many of these people have traveled from places that do have confirmed cases of the virus, like Australia or New Zealand. It is thus crucial that all be tested, as American Samoa has not had any cases of this deadly disease. The new plan is for tests to be conducted once these flights land in American Samoa. Afterward, people will be quarantined either in a government facility or at home, with the location being determined by local officials.
While the new plan is better than the old, issues still remain. There is no way to contact all of the American Samoans who have been living in Samoa. This is a problem that still needs to be solved. Only verified residents and essential other people, such as medical personnel or major contractors will be allowed on these flights once they are planned.
Despite this problem, the governor wants repatriation to begin this week, but the Samoans are unaware of these plans. There has been no official approval to resume flights between the islands. A primary reason why this has become such a priority is the fact that medical care is better in American Samoa than in Samoa. However, it is important that there is communication between the two governments so that these flights can be executed well.