Samoa will be in lockdown from Saturday as it faces its first outbreak of COVID-19 after a woman who was about to leave the country tested positive.

Although health authorities have so far only found one case, this is the first time Samoa has detected unexplained cases in the community and likely indicates an undetected outbreak that has been going on for days or even weeks. .

A government report leaked online said the woman had visited church services, a hospital, shops, a library and a travel agency since feeling ill last Saturday.

Samoa and several neighboring Pacific island countries were among the last places on earth to avoid virus outbreaks. But the more transmissible omicron variant changed the equation, and one by one island nations succumbed to COVID-19.

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Since the start of the year, Kiribati, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, the Cook Islands and American Samoa have all experienced their first major outbreaks.

John Fala, who runs a logistics business in Samoa, said it was inevitable that Samoa would eventually catch the virus, a reality brought home to many when COVID-19 began to spread in American Samoa. neighbours.

“We had two years to prepare,” Fala said. “Now he is finally here. Of course, there will be some scrambling.

From Saturday midnight, all schools will be closed, public gatherings will be banned and all shops and other services will be closed except those considered essential. From Friday midnight, people were required to wear masks and use vaccination cards.

There were reports on Friday of panic buying ahead of the lockdown.

Fala, who is vaccinated, said his business is considered an essential service and he is frantically trying to navigate the new rules to keep it going.

The lockdown is initially scheduled to last until midnight Tuesday, although Fala expects it to be extended.

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A father of three young children, Fala said his biggest concern was that unvaccinated children would catch the virus. He said the nation of 200,000 had good inoculation rates among adults, but had only just started vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11 in the past week.

About 65% of all Samoans have received at least two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, according to Our World in Data.

Samoa Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa informed people of the positive case in a special announcement to the nation on Thursday evening. She said the infected woman was in isolation and her movements and contact with people were being traced.

Mata’afa said officials wanted to do everything they could to prevent its rapid spread.

“Although our country continues to go through these difficult times, let us continue to trust in the Lord,” Mata’afa said in his announcement.

Samoa has already experienced virus scares and lockdowns after plane passengers returned who tested positive during isolation, but has managed to avoid any community outbreaks so far.

Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Nauru are among the few Pacific island nations to have avoided omicron outbreaks.

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