Samoa measles crisis: Nation in lockdown, shops closed, people banned from driving

Samoa has gone into lockdown as a Government-ordered 'closure period' comes into effect, stopping inter-island travel, shops and public services operating and people driving.

The order, under the state of emergency declared on Tuesday, came into effect at 6am on Thursday (NZ time) as the island nation struggles to tackle its measles crisis, which has claimed 60 lives.

More than 4000 measles cases have been recorded since the outbreak began in October. Of the 60 dead, 52 were aged under four.

The extreme precautions, which aim to secure the "public safety of Samoa", include closing most private and public offices, services and businesses between 6am and 4pm on Thursday and Friday (NZ time).

Several services are exempt from the ban, including emergency services, hospitals and petrol stations used by the Government. Hotels can also stay open. Employees at these exempt services are allowed to leave work to be vaccinated and must continue to be paid.

No vehicle is allowed on the road unless it belongs to an exempt service or is being used by law enforcement or for medical assistance. Inter-island travel between Upolu and Savaii is also prohibited for the public.

Residents are being told to stay in their homes to await mobile vaccination units, while those who are already vaccinated are being encouraged to confirm their details in a Government database.

Samoan journalist and filmmaker Tuki Laumea told Newshub it had been chaos in the lead up to the closure.

"It has been reasonably chaotic on the streets, just trying to get themselves organised, get food, make sure they have supplies and make sure they can last for two days without any real services," Laumea said.

"Everyone here does realise how catastrophic this can be and everyone is trying to do their best to help the government mobilise teams of people to get out and vaccinate people.

"People here are very good are doing what they've been told to do. If the government says they need to do something, they do it. That is just how society works here. I think people that need it, they will do it."

Newshub Pacific Affairs correspondent Michael Morrah told The AM Show from Samoa that there was little activity on the streets.

"Apia is normally a vibrant, bustling central city and the only activity we have seen this morning is emergency staff preparing on mass to go out and vaccinate as many people as possible," Morrah said.

"It is pretty apocalyptic... it is extraordinary how quiet it is here."

He said police are cracking down on people driving on the roads. Warnings have been given out to at least three people.

Residents are also being told to put red ribbon or flags at their front gates to indicate who has not been vaccinated.

Roughly 40 percent of the population still needed to be vaccinated, Morrah said. But even when people get vaccinated, it still takes about two weeks for that to kick in.

Samoan health authorities have been assisted over the last two weeks by Kiwi nurses. On Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters announced additional support and personnel would be deployed.

The package included funding for 100,000 vaccines as well as 15 specialists and more Samoan-speaking doctors and nurses.

It's believed the disease reached the Pacific nation after someone visited from Auckland, where more than 1500 cases have been confirmed this year.