Samoa goes into lockdown after first COVID case in community

Island nation is the latest country in the Pacific to unearth a local outbreak of COVID-19.

The Pacific island nation of Samoa sealed its borders Friday as it entered a nationwide lockdown after recording its first case of COVID-19 in the community.

The government issued an emergency order suspending all international travel by air and sea in the wake of the positive case, which was detected on Thursday on the main island of Upolu.

Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa said the case involved a 29-year-old woman who was found to be positive in tests ahead of a flight to Fiji.

Mata’afa ordered a four-day national lockdown as the authorities tracked the woman’s movements.

“All schools will remain closed, including public gatherings, churches and other services except for essential services,” she said in a national address late on Thursday. From midnight on Friday, people were also required to wear masks and use vaccination cards.

It is the first time Samoa – a country of about 200,000 people – has found any unexplained cases in the community and suggests an undetected outbreak that could have been going on for days or even weeks.

John Fala, who runs a logistics company in Samoa, said the emergence of the virus was inevitable.

“We’ve had two years to prepare,” Fala said. “Now it’s finally here. Of course, there is going to be a bit of scrambling.”

A government report leaked online indicated the woman had taken part in church services, and visited places including a hospital, a library, and a travel agency since she first began to feel ill last Saturday.

About 90 percent of Samoa’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to government data.

Samoa and several neighbouring Pacific island nations have been among the last places on earth to avoid outbreaks of the coronavirus since the pandemic began two years ago. But the more transmissible Omicron variant has made it more difficult for countries to avoid cases. Since the start of the year, Kiribati, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, the Cook Islands, and American Samoa have all experienced their first big outbreaks.


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