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21 Mar 2020 | 07:46 PM UTC

Samoa: All flights to Australia suspended from March 22 /update 3

Samoan government suspends all flights to and from Australia from March 22 due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; other emergency restrictions in place

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Event

Strict containment measures and entry restrictions are in place for Samoa after the government approved State of Emergency Orders on Saturday, March 21, to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) into the country. All flights between Australia are suspended until further notice as of Sunday, March 22, along with service to Tonga, Fiji, and American Samoa. Samoa Airways and Air New Zealand will only operate one flight per week to New Zealand. All international travel to Samoa remains suspended and only Samoan citizens or residents will be allowed to enter the country. All returning travelers must undergo a COVID-19 test five days before arrival.

Other strict containment measures are also in place. All public gatherings of more than five people are prohibited, including church gatherings and sporting events. Bars, theaters, nightclub, and other social areas are closed, and restaurants are only allowed to provide customers with food to take away. All public transportation except vehicles that carry five people or less are prohibited. An overnight curfew is in effect from 16:00 until 06:00 (local time) and markets are not allowed to be open during the curfew. All schools remain closed until further notice.

As of March 22, no cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term.

Context

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 March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.

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.

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

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; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands. 
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.