11 Mar 2020

American Samoa establishes Covid-19 govt taskforce

3:22 pm on 11 March 2020

American Samoa's governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga has established a 21-member Covid-19 government taskforce.

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Photo: RNZI / Monica Miller

The taskforce is designed to ensure the governor and the lieutenant governor receive "comprehensive information and recommendations on the coronavirus for them to make decisions".

The taskforce will also develop an action plan to respond to the threat of coronavirus.

An original working group was appointed by Lolo last month and was tasked with providing a plan for the territory but their role has now been transferred to the taskforce.

The governor said the taskforce would also work on designating facilities to quarantine suspected cases, look at the costs involved, and investigate how government operations can continue in the event of a confirmed case.

The taskforce has been instructed to complete its work as soon as possible and the send it to the US Department of Interior, the US Census for Disease Control and Prevention, and congresswoman Aumua Amata.

Five quarantined

Five passengers from a Hawaiian Air flight into American Samoa have spent the night at the Leone Health Center as part of the coronavirus quarantine regulations.

Health Director Motusa Tuileama Nua said passengers included a couple who had been to the Philippines, a Samoan travelling from Seattle, another from San Francisco and an American tourist who had visited several countries.

Motusa said none of the travellers exhibited any signs of illness.

He acknowledged the screening process for the over 200 passengers on last night's flight took a long time because they checked not only for fever but passports for where people had travelled.

Hawaiian Air is not refusing travellers from virus-infected countries despite the territory asking that people from such countries spend 14 days in Hawai'i before arrival.

The health director said unless there was an executive order, Hawaii Air would not refuse any travellers.

However, the airline is advising passengers to expect heavy screening and the possibility of being quarantined in American Samoa.

Meanwhile, the head of Fiji's airport authority said flow-on effects from the virus outbreak could spell financial disaster.

Faiz Khan told the Fiji Times passenger traffic was down 24 percent for the first quarter of 2020.

He said airport costs were fixed and could not be reduced, and the cut to revenue could be devastating.

Future infrastructure projects would be deferred.

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