By RNZ

Samoa's government is to shut down on Thursday and Friday this week so as all public sector workers can help with the country's mass measles vaccination campaign.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Maleilegaoi announced the measure on Monday evening in a nation-wide address. He said all branches would close with the exception of the water and electricity authorities.

Meanwhile, rhere have been another five deaths in Samoa's measles epidemic, bringing the toll to 53. It's the sixth day the death toll has risen, with children under the age of four making up almost all but five of the dead.

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The Ministry of Health said in the past 24 hours, there were another 198 cases of measles recorded, bringing the total to more than 3700. One hundred and eighty-three people remain in hospital, including 19 critically ill children.

Samoa is racing to immunise its entire population and today authorities expanded the ages of those eligible for vaccinations. They're now available for people aged six months to 60 years old.

Previously, the vaccines were being prioritised for everyone between six months and 19, and non-pregnant women up to 35 years old.

- RNZ