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Nuku’alofa – March 24, 2020: 11.20am (Nuku’alofa Times): The Government of Tonga has locked out flights, cruise ships and all travels for the next 14 days due to the current status of COVID-19 or the coronavirus.

The Ministry of Health of Tonga issued this in their Travel Advisory on Monday.

That meant all those booked to fly into Tonga on Monday had to stay wherever they were, now waiting to see if any flight will be approved after the 14 days.

Fiji Airways also cancelled all flights to the region and major destinations this week.

With the expected increase in the number of confirmed cases in Fiji, the other countries in the region, including Samoa, Cook Islands, Solomons and Papua New Guinea have also all declared states of emergencies.

The Tonga Ministry of Health is closely monitoring this pandemic of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (termed “COVID-19”) that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which continues to expand.

The Ministry of Health is seriously concerned about the high risk of importation of COVID-19 into Tonga due to the significant health impacts it will have. There is a very high risk of an outbreak which has the potential to cause huge economic loss to the country. The country alert level is therefore raised from “high” to “very high” according to WHO Risk Assessment.

In exercise of the powers stipulated under the Public Health Act, the following travel advisory is issued, and shall apply to all ports of entry1 in the Kingdom of Tonga.

1. All international flights to Tonga is diverted from Tonga for the next 2 weeks (23rd March 2020 – 6th April 2020, however the diversion list is only to 28th March 2020), except for international flights approved by the Ministry of Health.

2. Only Tongan passport holders, valid residency visa holders, valid working visa holders, and international travelers are approved by the Ministry of Health, will be granted entry into Tonga.

3. All travelers arriving in Tonga must report and register with the Ministry of Health Border Control Team and provide the following documents:

a. A completed Traveler’s Arrival Health Declaration Card; AND

b. Medical clearance obtained within 3 days prior to arrival in Tonga;

4.  All travelers arriving in Tonga must undergo 14 days quarantine in Tongatapu and comply with all directions issued by the Ministry of Health Border Control Team.

5. All travelers, who upon arrival in Tonga, who qualifies as a suspect case of COVID-19 as a determined by the Ministry of Health Border Control Team, 2shall comply with their directions and undergo 14 days isolation in Tongatapu.

6. All conveyances operating in Tonga are advised to prohibit the boarding of any passenger with symptoms of COVID-19 and report to the Ministry of Health3 the presence of any sick person on board as required by the International Health Regulations (2005).

7. It is strongly instructed that all persons intending to travel to overseas countries, are to postpone their travel arrangements in the next 3 months.

8. All international flights and vessels entering Tonga shall use Tongatapu as the first port of entry for border screening and control. 4Cargo vessels shall be re-routed to the outer islands once approved by the Ministry of Health.

9. All international cruise ships and yachts scheduled to arrive after the 19th of March 2020 shall be denied entry into Tonga until further notice.

A failure to comply with any of the above will result in criminal prosecution under Tonga’s laws.

This Travel Advisory was issued by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was effective from 1:00am on March 23 and may be further reviewed and updated as required.

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