Honolulu City to help repatriation of Am Samoans

The City and County of Honolulu is joining the state’s efforts to help bring an estimated 800 American Samoa residents back home.

The government of American Samoa closed its borders in March of 2020 to keep the territory COVID-free, leaving many residents unable to return home.

Now, the state says repatriation flights will begin to help ensure residents get home safely while preserving the territory’s efforts to keep COVID-19 out.

American Samoa — the U.S. territory about 1,600 miles from New Zealand and 2,200 miles from Hawaii — closed its borders in March stranding residents in Hawaii and other states across the country.

Stranded travelers can now return home to American Samoa, but first they’ll stop in Hawaii where they’ll undergo COVID testing before departure. They’ll also quarantine for 10 days at the White Sands Hotel in Waikiki before departure.

Government officials assisting in the effort to return stranded American Samoa residents to their homes will take over a section of the Waikiki Shell parking lot on Monsarrat Avenue for screening purposes Monday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and again on Feb. 7 and Feb. 22.

“We appreciate the patience and understanding of our island community as we provide these public facilities to assist are American Samoa ohana in their much anticipated journey back home,” city officials said in a release.

The process will involve the use of a section of the Waikiki Shell Parking lot on Monsarrat Avenue. The Shell’s parking lot will serve as a temporary waiting area while many await to complete their mandatory pre-flight quarantine at the Waikiki Sands Hotel.

American Samoa residents flying back home as part of the repatriation process are also expected to undergo COVID-19 testing prior to their travels.