'Time of sacrifice' in Samoa as tourism suffers under Covid-19 lockdown rules

Samoa's tourism industry is struggling to stay afloat amid Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, but the country's recent measles outbreak gives them every reason to be prepared.

Samoa ordered a state of emergency three weeks ago, and was the first Pacific nation to enforce border measures in early February. 

One of the reasons for the caution will the memory of the measles outbreak four months ago, which infected 5000 people and killed more than 80 - mainly children under the age of five.

The country's tourism sector has seen more than 4000 job losses so far, and there are no flights in or out of the country, Tagata Pasifika reported.

Inter-island ferries are not available to the public, all schools are closed and all church services are cancelled - public gatherings of more than five people are banned.

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The team is facing some unique challenges, including the nation’s slow internet speed. Source: Tagata Pasifika

Supermarkets, local markets and all shops can only operate between 6am and 4pm.

Samoa Ministry of Health CEO Leausa Dr Take Naseri says the country is doing its very best to prepare for if - or when - the country gets its first confirmed case of Covid-19.

"We have doctors, we have identified teams to respond, we have strategies to make sure we can last, and also we've been buying up supplies in anticipation of having our first case," Mr Naseri told Tagata Pasifika.

"This might prolong - we're anticipating six to nine months - after nine months, we might not be able to last that, with the supplies."

Mr Naseri said as soon as the coronavirus started to spread, Samoa immediately took precautions.

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

"It came out as a brand new virus, unknown to the whole world, so when it started exploding and then propagating to the rest of the world, we knew it was just a case of when it would arrive - so I think that's when we started restricting incoming of, mainly, the tourists.

"This is a time of sacrifice - everybody has some sacrifice to make in these trying times."

The tourism industry is arguably making more sacrifices than many, and Taumeasina Island Resort General Manager Tuiataga Nathan Bucknail can attest to that.

"Obviously tourists are no longer coming, our restaurants and bars are closed as per the state of emergency, and planes have stopped, so it's definitely as a big impact of tourism," he told Tagata Pasifika.

"We've had to release quite a few staff on paid and unpaid leave at this stage - 20 staff we've made redundant not to return, including some of our managers.

"Maybe at the end of the state of emergency we re-address, and have a look at what staff we keep and what staff we have to let go.

"It's tragic, but unfortunately when I have a hotel that has a capacity of 105 rooms and I have two rooms (filled), we can't sustain."