The Pacific island nation of Samoa has closed its borders and prohibited public gatherings in a two-day national lockdown after recording its first known locally transmitted case of the coronavirus.
The 48-hour lockdown order, which began at midnight local time on Saturday, came after officials said they received a positive test result from an individual who had taken a coronavirus test on Thursday as a requirement for departure from Samoa, Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa said in a statement on Thursday. The individual is isolating, and the government is conducting contact tracing, she said.
The prime minister said the cabinet would continue to assess the situation throughout the lockdown.
On Friday, the country closed all schools, bars, fitness centers and nightclubs. Residents are required to carry their vaccination cards and wear masks in public. Under the lockdown, churches are closed and other services are not permitted unless they are essential.
The case reported on Thursday was believed to be the first that the country of about 200,000 people has found without any known path of transmission..
It is not Samoa’s first lockdown this year. The government imposed one in January after passengers who arrived on a flight from Brisbane, Australia, tested positive.
Samoa reported its first case in November 2020. At the time, it was one of the few countries worldwide with no confirmed cases, many of which were also island nations. Samoa has recorded 49 Covid cases and no deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. About 66 percent of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.
The virus has been spreading on other islands in the central South Pacific. Tonga, locked down last month amid an outbreak that started among aid workers assisting in its recovery efforts from a tsunami and volcanic eruption, and in recent weeks, American Samoa — one of the world’s last holdouts from the virus — saw a surge in cases.
However,some islands in the area have been spared: Nauru and Tuvalu have not reported any cases.