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Samoa locks down after recording its first community COVID-19 case

The Tupua Tamasese Meaule Hospital is pictured in Apia, Samoa, July 10, 2015. Samoa will go into lockdown from Saturday, March 19, 2022 as it faces its first outbreak of the coronavirus after a woman who was about to leave the country tested positive. (Dean Purcell/New Zealand Herald via AP)
The Tupua Tamasese Meaule Hospital is pictured in Apia, Samoa, on July 10, 2015. Samoa will go into lockdown beginning Saturday as it faces its first outbreak of the coronavirus after a woman who was about to leave the country tested positive.

The Pacific island nation of Samoa has detected its very first case of community-transmitted COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, prompting a nationwide lockdown due to being this weekend.

Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata-afa said in a news conference late Thursdaythat the country would be placed under a state of emergency and schools, gyms, nightclubs and bars would be closed Friday. Shops and other services can continue to operate until Saturday night, she said, when at midnight a nation-wide lockdown of its some 200,000 residents will begin and last until at least Tuesday.

The community case is a woman who tested positive Thursday during required testing before boarding an international flight, The Samoa Observer reports.

According to a report submitted to the Ministry of Health, the individual developed symptoms Saturday, but continued to move about the community during the week, traveling to several places such as church, the library and the market, according to the news outlet. The individual has since been isolated and contact tracing begun.

This is the country's second lockdown of the year. In late January, Samoan officials restricted the movement of its people after passengers on a flight from Australia tested positive in quarantine.

Samoa recorded its very first COVID-19 case in November 2020 and has since racked up over 40 cases and no deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. But until this week, all of the previous cases have been caught in quarantine.

This year has so far seen the pandemic reach crevices of the world, such as the Pacific, that had previously managed to keep the virus mostly at bay for nearly two years.

Along with Samoa, the archipelago nation of Kiribati also went into lockdown in January when it detected its first cases of community transmission. Before that, Kiribati had only recorded two COVID cases. The country now has over 3,000 and 13 people have died, according to the WHO.

The next month, Tonga, which had previously recorded only one case, also detected its first community-transmission of COVID-19 after international aid began pouring into the country following the eruption of a massive underwater volcano in mid-January. Now the country has over 2,000 cases and two people have died.

Even the tiny island nation of Niue, only a little over 100 square-miles in size and located some 1,500 miles northeast of New Zealand, detected its very first COVID-19 case last week when a flight passenger arriving from New Zealand tested positive.

Palau, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the French territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia have all seen spikes in COVID-19 since the start of the year. Meanwhile, the Federated States of Micronesia, Tuvalu and Nauru have yet to report a single case.

The isolation of Pacific nations has played to their advantage during the pandemic, as they were able to shut their borders quickly. But enjoying a relatively COVID-free life the past two years hasn't been without great cost to their tourism and commodity-dependent economies, experts say. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.