A man who flew from Auckland to Samoa escaped a quarantine facility less than a week after arriving in the island nation - and was found standing in line at a local bank.
The 26-year-old, a seasonal worker, was on a repatriation Air New Zealand flight that left Auckland last Thursday.
Samoa's director general of health, Dr Leausa Take Naseri, said authorities were shocked and disappointed when they realised a person in a quarantine facility in Apia was missing.
It is not known exactly when the man escaped the property, but his absence was picked up during the morning count at 6am.
"By about 9 o'clock, he was found standing in line at the Western Union," Naseri, speaking in Samoan, told a media conference last night.
The Western Union is located on the bottom floor of a local bank.
He stressed that there is not and has never been a case of Covid-19 in the community in Samoa.
"But there is still a worry there, as the flight has left New Zealand during a time of a Covid Delta outbreak in the community."
The seasonal worker has returned three negative Covid tests so far and tested negative before his flight out of Auckland.
It is thought the man left the quarantine facility he was in, jumped a fence and caught a ride into Apia township, the nation's capital city, either in a taxi or a bus.
Samoan authorities are now calling on members of the public who believe they may have come into contact with the man to come forward.
"This virus can be caught by someone sneezing or even touching someone's hand," Naseri said.
"If there is anyone out there who believes they have come into contact with him during this time period - from 6am to 9am - please come forward," Naseri said.
"He may have come into town on a bus or a taxi. Maybe you talked to him."
One positive was that the majority of contacts already identified were already fully vaccinated, Naseri said.
"That gives us some comfort right now."
Samoa's heartbreaking history with pandemics
Up to 60 per cent of the island nation's population have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Up to 95 per cent of that population have had their first jab.
The uptake for the vaccine has been high in Samoa, after several campaigns to get vaccinated after the devastating 2019 measles epidemic that resulted in more 5,700 cases and 83 deaths - most of the victims young children.
Samoa's history with the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic is also very much front and centre in people's minds; when a fifth of the population was wiped out after a ship from New Zealand carrying sick passengers arrived.
Authorities there have released a photo of the man so those who may have come into contact with him may recognise they may have been around him or interacted with him at some point yesterday morning.
Up to 20 people have already been identified and are now in quarantine as a precautionary measure.
Among the members of the public who have been put into quarantine are a woman and her two children who were standing in line at Western Union at the same time.
Health officials called on the 588 people currently in managed isolation in Samoa to keep to the rules and wait out their isolation period for the sake of the rest of the country.
The man involved has since been put back into quarantine to carry out the rest of his isolation period and has been fined $2000tala (NZ$1091).