2 Dec 2020

US officials denied stopover in American Samoa

5:08 am on 2 December 2020

A group of US officials enroute to their base in Antartica have been denied a stopover in American Samoa by the governor of the territory.

Lolo Matalasi Moliga denied the request from the US Air Force to enter the territory over the weekend.

Lolo Matalasi Moliga at his State of the Territory address.

Lolo Matalasi Moliga at his State of the Territory address. Photo: RNZI / Monica Miller

In his denial, Lolo said the mission could not come through American Samoa because he couldn't in good conscience, subject people to the deadly coronavirus.

Permission had been requested for three aircraft carrying 31 crew members to overnight in American Samoa.

The travellers were to make a stopover at the airport ,spend the night at the Quarantine Centre then fly to New Zealand, and continue on to Antarctica.

Lolo wrote: "Please know that we fully understand and are very much sensitive to the importance and significance of this mission to the United States' continued presence in the Antarctic. "

He pointed out the territory had struggled to demonstrate its deep sense of patriotism while continuing to preempt the accidental entry of the coronavirus there.

"American Samoa remains the only US Jurisdiction which has not been ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic and we have made great sacrifices to maintain and to continue our "Free Coronavirus Bubble", wrote the governor.

He expressed appreciation of the US Air force efforts to engage in protective protocols exhibiting sensitivity and support of the territory's efforts to keep American Samoa Covid-19 free.

The governor explained that perceived uncontrolled exponential surge in the number of Covid-19 cases and the corresponding uptake in the number of deaths had emboldened his administration's resolve to take even harsher protective measures to eliminate any possible risk of accidental transmission.

He suggested that adhering to preventative protocols might not provide absolute guarantees of no virus entering the territory, hence the denial of a stopover.

Lolo informed the USAF that because neighbouring Samoa had announced its first positive Covid cases, there was now further uncertainty.

His letter concluded: "Accordingly, I regret to inform you that this mission cannot come through American Samoa because I cannot in good conscience subject our people to this deadly virus. We are a small island with very limited resources, limited healthcare facilities and finite options if the virus does enter our shores. Our population is very vulnerable because of the high incidence of Diabetes, Hypertension, Heart Diseases, and many other underlying medical conditions. "

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