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Nuku’alofa – February 24, 2020: 1.30pm (Nuku’alofa Times): Tonga is still yet to record any positive case of coronavirus, the Prime Minister Hon Dr Pohiva Tu’ionetoa said in a statement at the weekend.

And Hon Dr Tu’ionetoa has acknowledged the support of overseas governments who have supported Tonga in providing quarantine service for Tongans who were in China.

“When the virus broke in the epicentre of Wuhan, in the latter part of 2019, over a hundred Tongans were in various parts of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This number included Tongan Students, Tonga Ambassador Office, Tongan Athletes and Tongan Visitors to China,” Hon Dr Tu’ionetoa said in his statement.

“Since early 2020, Tonga’s Ministry of Health (MoH) has been working closely with other related Ministries, as well as overseas Governments and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to ensure Tongans in China are cared for, identified as to their state of health, and plans for their safe return to Tonga.”

The PM said it was equally important that preparedness and preventative measures that the Tonga Government must adopt to manage the risk of travellers into Tonga presenting a threat or possible carrier of the virus are taken.

“The Tonga Government is very pleased to acknowledge that Tongans in China remain safe and those that have chosen to depart China so far, this has been made possible through the assistance of Tonga’s diplomatic relations with related overseas Governments, of which His Majesty’s Government is deeply grateful for,” he said.

Four Tongans first departed from PRC

The four students currently on quarantine in New Zealand are in good health and are well supported by the New Zealand Government. The four Tongans were among other Pacific Islander students who opted to leave China and were safely transported to New Zealand for required quarantine before they can return to Tonga.

Tongan Athletes in PRC

The Office of the High Commissioner of Tonga in London reports that as of February 19 the final group of students (about 26) arrived into Heathrow Airport, London. That completes the group of sports students (about 51 altogether including officials) who travelled from Tonga to the People’s Republic of China.

Reports indicate the students are in good health and are enjoying more freedom in London although they also acknowledged the care and concern shown to them from the Chinese Government before their departure from China.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs met with the students’ parents yesterday afternoon to provide the latest update, and this will most probably be their final meeting, whilst awaiting the students’ arrival to Tonga.

PM Dr Tu’ionetoa said as the collective measures adopted by overseas countries to ensure screening and quarantine are applied to mitigate possible threats of the virus spreading, Tonga must also take the same precautions if we are to ensure the continued health of the Tongan people and not expose any person in Tonga to the threat of contracting the coronavirus, due to lack of proactive screening measures.

Looking ahead and Tonga’s prevention and preparedness

The PM said partnerships and close collaborations will continue with the High Commissioners of New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, People’s Republic of China and Japan.

“This collaboration has yielded positive results so far, not only in the safe and swift departure of Tongans from China when they are cleared to do so, but also in many other areas to assist Tonga’s preparedness,” he said.

WHO is providing protective equipment including masks, gowns, gloves, hand washing aids, to protect both health workers and the population from the possible spread of the virus.

The Ministry of Health works with Border Control Team’s ongoing screening of international travellers at all borders – Fua’amotu International Airport, Queen Salote and Vuna wharves.

“Cruise ships, Yachts and Fishing vessels, Cargo ships or all ships are required to submit the vessel’s travel route history, specific details of the vessel and vessel personnel journey, in particular the health condition of those on board. Work for preparation of a Quarantine space is currently underway,” Hon Dr Tu’ionetoa said.

Preparation of a ‘Health Care Facility’ for the unlikely event of a case of coronavirus in the Kingdom is currently underway.

WHO consultants are on the ground and MoH experts are working in close partnership to ensure safety of the population.


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