This Christmas will be tinged with sadness for Ueli Sasagi as the Northland-based Samoan decided against travelling home for a family reunion due to the measles epidemic.
Instead, his family will deposit money earmarked for Christmas gifts for family and friends back home into an account the Samoan government set up to help fight the deadly outbreak.
Of the 60 that have died from measles, 54 were children under the age of 15, and 25 were babies aged less than 1 year old. Three were aged 19 and over.
New state of emergency orders have been declared and all non-essential domestic travel on roads are banned today and tomorrow, together with the closure of all government offices.
All private-sector businesses except hotels, accommodation services and the morgue will have to shut down as well so state resources could be focused on stopping the disease spreading further.
Sasagi, major project leader/principal planner at Kaipara District Council based in Mangawhai, and his wife Leata planned to fly out for the reunion on December 15 but their booking was not confirmed.
Their two sons had confirmed bookings to travel at the end of this week but they too are now not going because of the measles outbreak.
The reunion has been re-scheduled for either January or February, depending on the situation in Samoa.
Sasagi said the sheer number of people who had died and those being treated was heartbreaking.
A friend on the island he lived with lost two children to measles and Sasagi said the sobering news was hard to fathom.
"We've decided that instead of spending on Christmas gifts, we'll donate money to an account the Samoan government opened to help people in desperate need. The money will help buy things like clothing, disposable nappies, distilled drinking water, and even food."
Sasagi knows too well the scourge of measles, he had it when he was about 5.
"I remember being very sick and all I did was take Aspro tablets and plenty of water. My mum wrapped me in a wet cloth and I spent eight days in bed doing nothing but sleeping.
"I got better and the question I ask now is why is measles so serious that it can spread and kill people. The thing that was always in my mind was one could get better with measles," he said.
His sister who lives in Auckland went to Samoa to attend her son's graduation, scheduled for last week, which has been cancelled.