Jan 19 is target date for 1st repatriation flight

The governor has given provisional approval to the Repatriation Plan prepared by the Department of Health and the LBJ Tropical Medical Center. 

This is revelaed in a November 16 letter from Governor Lolo Moliga to the Chairman of the Coronavirus Task Force Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, co chairs, Director of Health Motusa Tuileama Nua and CEO of LBJ Faumuina John Faumuna Jr and all COVID-19 Task Force members.

According to a presentation by DOH at a CTF meeting several months ago, an online registry was to be set up by the Department of Health for stranded residents to sign up.

Those traveling here would quarantine in Hawaii for 10 days at a selected hotel and they would be COVID-19 tested there. The Pacific Islands Health Officers Association, PIHOA, would assist with the repatriation effort in Hawaii. Upon arrival here the travelers would be subject to 14-days quarantine.

“The key elements of the Repatriation Plan , with its four stages were clearly articulated to me, which I hereby provide my provisional approval to allow further investigation and to ascertain clarity on each of the plan’s elements,” wrote Lolo.

However he’s seeking “greater specificity” on policies to guide the implementation of each phase of the Repatriation Plan. 

As an example, the governor asks who will be responsible for the Registry Phase.

“While the Department of Health has prepared the Registry Platform the Attorney General needs to get involved to vet those approved to travel. A policy is also needed to establish priority rating on is given the first priority to fly on the first flight.,” Lolo suggested.

He noted that the Hawaii Quarantine Operation will be the most challenging stage of the Repatriation Plan. 

“I will need to see the detailed stages of this Hawaii Quarantine process inclusive of the testing regime which needs to occur during the 10 days.,” he stated.

He said funding also needs to be in place. Based on the 600 projected number of stranded residents, more than one flight will be required to bring everyone home, Lolo told the CTF.

He approved the recommendation in the plan for 140 minimum passengers per flight. 

Governor Lolo also gave provision approval to the recommendation to use the Tradewinds Hotel , together with the DOH facilities to quarantine arriving travelers.

He stressed that human resources capcity must be in place fir the implementation phase.

He observed that DOH has repeatedly cited lack of medical personnel To perform regular health functions and questioned how it can meet the demands of COVID-19 response.

“And its clearly evident DOH will shoulder most of the major tasks of the repatriation plan,” he said.

Will DOH have the human resources capacity to meet implement the Repatriation Plan and performmtheir regular duties at the same time? 

The governor’s letter mentions that January 19 was the suggested target date for the first repatriation flight from Hawaii.

He said the date may be ambitious but for now “let us go with it with the understanding that this date will change if the specific for each stage of the plan are not fully clarified.

The governor thanked Director of the Office of Insular Affairs, Dept of Interior Nikolao Pula for his efforts to secure a viable solution to bring stranded residents home and also ensuring Amerian Samoa receives its fair share of federal resources to combat the pandemic. 

He also recognized and thanked Eileen Tyrell and Tagata Tutu Fautasi Alliance for her articulating the needs of stranded residents.

The governor concluded that the work performed by the Task Force is appreciated and members should find satifsfaction in the fact that American Samoa is one of a few places in the world which has not succumbed to the clutches of this deadly virus.