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Samoa, an island country in the central South Pacific Ocean, sealed its borders after detecting its first community-transmitted COVID-19 since the pandemic’s start. The positive case was detected on the main island of Upolu.
Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa placed the nation of 200,000 residents under a state of emergency, and a nationwide lockdown ensued, which lasted for four days. Schools, gyms, bars, and nightclubs were closed on Friday, but shops and other services continued to operate until Saturday night. Shops and other essential services can continue to operate until Saturday night.
The Samoa community transmission is from a woman who tested positive before boarding an international flight from the required testing. As a result, all international travel by sea and air were suspended.
Based on the report presented to the Ministry of Health, the woman developed symptoms last Saturday, but she continued to move about the community during the week. According to a news outlet, she went to the library, the church, and the market. She has been isolated, and contact tracing began.
This nationwide lockdown is the second this year. In late January, passengers in quarantine from an Australian flight tested positive.
John Hopkins University confirmed that November 2020 was Samoa’s first COVID-19 case and racked up 40 until this week, but previous patients were all caught in quarantine.
For nearly two years, Samoa has kept the virus at bay while the pandemic reached crevices of the world, avoiding local transmissions and recording only 48 cases at its borders.
In addition to Samoa, Kiribati was also on lockdown in January when they detected the first community transmission. Kiribati only recorded two COVID-19 cases before that. According to WHO, now the country has more than 3,000 cases and 13 deaths.
The tiny island nation of Niue of only 100 square miles area, located some 1,500 northeast of New Zealand, recorded its very first COVID-19 case when a passenger from a New Zealand flight was tested positive for the virus.
Tonga has only recorded one case in the past but recently detected their first community transmission after the massive eruption of the underwater volcano in mid-January. Presently, the country has more than 2,000 cases and two deaths.
Since the start of this year, Fiji, the Cook Islands, Palau, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, French Polynesia, the French territories of New Caledonia, and Papua New Guinea have detected spikes in COVID-19 cases. However, Tuvalu, Micronesia, and Nauru have yet to report their first case.
The quick shutdown to its borders and isolation played to the advantage of the Pacific nations like Samoa. Experts say that a relatively COVID-free life in the past two years has not been without serious cost to their commodity-dependent economy and tourism.
According to government data, 90% of American Samoa’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and was the world’s holdout from the coronavirus.
Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
NPR: Samoa locks down after recording its first community COVID-19 case; by Ashley Westerman
Eagle News: Samoa locks down after first community Covid-19 case; Edrian Acla
The New York Times: Covid News: American Samoa Sees Surge in Cases
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of World Meteorological Organization’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Mikigroup’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License