On Monday, March 2, authorities announced that airlines were to reduce flight operations to Samoa in response to the first confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) case in New Zealand. The measure seeks to contain the spread of the virus.
Samoa Airways would reduce weekly flights from New Zealand from five flights to three and Air New Zealand from six flights to three. Talofa Airways flights from American Samoa and Fiji Airways flights from Fiji have also been reduced.
Additionally, all travelers from New Zealand are now required to undergo a medical examination at most three days before departure for Samoa and provide a medical clearance certificate before checking into their flight and receiving a boarding pass.
No confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Samoa as of March 5. Further spread of the virus is likely over the coming weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 28, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the risk of spread and the risk of impact of the virus is "very high" at the global level.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Individuals traveling to Samoa are advised to monitor the situation and confirm flight status prior to leaving for the airport.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care urgently and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.
In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.