Samoa's government said Monday that another five children had died within the past day from a measles outbreak, bringing the death toll from the epidemic to more than 50 as authorities race to vaccinate the entire population.
Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi announced the decision on Monday.
On December 5 and 6, civil servants will set aside their normal duties in order to aid in vaccination efforts.
The government said nearly 200 new measles cases had been recorded since Sunday, with the rate of infection showing no sign of slowing despite a compulsory mass vaccination programme. The death toll now stands at 53, and 48 of the victims were children under the age of 4. Since the Mass Vaccination Campaign on 20 Nov 2019, the Ministry has successfully vaccinated 58,150 individuals.
"Let us not be distracted by the promise of alternative cures".
The situation in the small country has been compounded by the low measles vaccination rate among its population, which numbers just under 200,000 people.
Officials declared a state of emergency two weeks ago, closing all schools, prohibiting all public gatherings, and ordering mandatory vaccinations for high-risk groups.
World Health Organization (WHO) medical officer for the western Pacific, Jose Hagan, said it was a grim reminder of the danger posed by "probably the most infectious disease that we know of".
He said only electricity and water utility workers would be exempt and called on the nation to stand together to contain the outbreak.
The United States this year recorded the most measles cases since 1992, with at least 31 states reporting infections.