Samoans stuck in NZ after borders closed return home today on repatriation flights

The first repatriation flights to return Samoans home from New Zealand are under way, with the first flight having left Auckland for Apia this morning.

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The sticking point for the island nation is New Zealand’s refusal to pre-test passengers. Source: 1 NEWS

Air New Zealand is working with the Samoan Government to bring its people home, and is operating in line with travel advice issued by the country's government.

An Airbus A321 left Auckland just after 9am today and is expected to arrive in Apia at 1.40pm local time. It is the first of what is expected to be fortnightly repatriation flights between the cities.

All passengers taking the flights will need to take a Covid-19 test three days before travel and to carry proof of a negative result. As well, all passengers will be required to hold a medical certificate advising fitness to fly, meaning they have no symptoms of illness.

On arrival in Samoa, they will be required to quarantine for 14 days at locations nominated by the Samoan government.

To allow for appropriate social distancing and to ensure quarantine can be managed in Samoa, seats on board each flight will also be limited.

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Among today’s announcements was Tonga’s decision to declare a state of emergency. Source: 1 NEWS

Air New Zealand's country manager for Samoa Karen Gatt said there was a large number of people currently in New Zealand who would like to return to Samoa.

"Because of Covid-19 and the resulting travel bans, for many of them there has been a substantial wait to be able to return to Samoa. Air New Zealand is in the process of making contact with those customers and looks forward to assisting the Samoan government with facilitating their repatriation," she said in a statement.

Samoan residents in New Zealand who would like to register for repatriation to Samoa are encouraged to contact the Samoan Consular in New Zealand, while Air New Zealand has asked those already booked on a service to be patient as bookings are worked through.

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Jacinda Ardern would want to be careful with travel, though, given some Pacific nations are Covid-19 free. Source: Breakfast