American Samoa's governor has given provisional approval to the government's plan to repatriate about 600 residents stranded in Hawai'i and the US mainland.
He also agreed to the government's Coronavirus Taskforce's suggestion of the first repatriation flight in mid-January.
The governor's provisional approval is outlined in a 16 November letter addressed to the taskforce.
The Repatriation Plan, prepared by the Health Department in collaboration with LBJ Medical Center, has been thoroughly vetted by the taskforce and approved for advancement to the Executive.
According to Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga, the "key elements" of the four-stage repatriation plan "were clearly articulated" to him and he gave his "provisional approval to allow further investigation and to ascertain clarity on each of the plan elements."
Specifically, the governor wants "greater specificity on policies to guide the implementation" of each phase of the plan. A key question was who would be responsible for registration for the plan?
While the territory's Health Department prepared an online Registry Platform, Lolo said the Attorney General needed to get involved to vet those approved to travel.
Additionally, there was a need to establish priority ranking for those on the first flight.
According to the repatriation plan, those approved to travel would be required to first go into quarantine for 10 days in Hawai'i, where the American Samoa Health Department would work with partners in Honolulu.
Lolo told the taskforce that the Hawai'i quarantine operation would be the most challenging stage of the plan.
He said that "detailed policies must be in place to guide and control the implementation" for each stage of the repatriation plan.
The governor also approved the taskforce's recommended 140 minimum number of passengers on each repatriation flight.
The suggested target date for the first repatriation flight is 19 January - although the governor conceded this "might be a bit ambitious".
However, he said "for now let us go with it with the understanding that this date will be changed if the specifics of each stage of the repatriation plan are not fully clarified."