By Staff Writer Newsline
Caption : BATTLING ALONG : Head of NEOC Ulu Bismarck Crawley keeping watch on the return of stranded Samoan travellers from New Zealand.
The next group of stranded arrivals from New Zealand will have to pay for their own dinner while isolated in quarantine for 14 days at selected hotels.
The government will continue to pay for bed and breakfast costs as part of the accommodation package.
Well over a thousand travellers are flying into Samoa from New Zealand over the coming weeks who will be quarantined on arrival.
Air New Zealand flew in 146 stranded travellers last week. The majority are quarantined in selected hotels around Apia with all the expenses met by the Government.
Head of the National Emergency Operations Centre, NECO, Ulu Bismarck Crawley, clarified the new lockdown orders approved on Wednesday 3 June 2020, as the sharing of costs.
“It is only fair that the travellers make some contribution to the costs of their hotel stay,” Ulu explained.
The amended order for international travel required the “… costs of accommodation and breakfast for passengers to be borne by the Government but dinner will be their responsibilities whilst in isolation.”
The adjustment is one of several the task force has been looking into since the large group flew in last week.
Ulu admitted a series of problems for the NEOC task force but the new arrivals served to point out areas in the whole repatriation process that must be tightened up.
Unverified reports of passengers who allegedly broke quarantine restrictions gave the task force the run around.
‘There was one about the ANZ Bank Manager seen in public that was not true as well a report of a highly suspected case who was allegedly isolated at Tiavi that was also not true,” Ulu bemoaned.
But there was a positive note he was ready to accept about the merry chase they went through to dispel the false reports about the new arrivals.
“ The unverified reports were coming from everywhere and to us it was a good sign of public awareness in high alert of the risks of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It also served notice to the those under quarantine that the public are not just aware but are keeping close watch as well for their own health protection and safety.”
Ulu also confirmed follow up concerns at reports of travellers sneaking through on the flight last week who were not returning as stranded passengers but to attend a family funeral.
Lockdown orders prohibit travellers arriving for the purpose of attending family obligation or ‘fa’alavelave’ that include funerals.
The organising of people on the stranded list to be repatriated from New Zealand are handled between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, New Zealand Government and the flight carrier.
“There are conditions already in place for all stranded travellers but that is left with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work on.
“People have to call into our Consul Office in Auckland to place their names for travel to Samoa and the list then goes to the carrier, we have nothing to do with the final list at NEOC.”
Ulu and his NEOC task force has been keeping an anxious watch on the ongoing count of days New Zealand has remained free of any new coronavirus cases.
He said every new day added becomes a confidence booster for the task force while the process of returning stranded travellers to Samoa is underway.
“ I think they are up to 11 straight days without any new reported case of the virus and that is great for us with our repatriation process.
“The longer New Zealand remains free the better it is for us and our confidence that the risks are coming down so we can afford to add more people to the repatriation list.”
The next flight for the stranded travellers is yet to be finalised between the 12th and the 15th June.
The Ministry of Health is reportedly not ready for the timing of the next flight coming in early.