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Health Ministry steps up checks at ports of entry

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Currently there have been no cases of coronavirus identified in Tonga, where the Ministry of Health is taking precautions to monitor incoming passengers, to prevent the introduction of the virus into Tonga.

A first travel advisory issued by the Ministry of Health today stated that all inbound passengers to Tonga must complete a Health Customs Form to assess potential signs and symptoms to coronavirus. Health teams have been stationed at Fua'amotu International Airport to monitor all incoming passengers, starting on January 27.

They are also strengthening, and monitoring public health systems to rapidly detect and respond to any imported case.

“For inbound travelers, to reduce the risk of the novel coronavirus, they must fill out the forms. Individuals who may be identified as being exposed to the virus will be subject to public health measures to reduce its spread.

The Ministry of Health strongly recommended that all persons intending to travel to China, or other countries affected by the virus to postpone their travels.

“If travel cannot be postponed, preventive measures should be followed at all times with requirements applied when return to Tonga. 

“For outbound travellers, it is strongly recommended that they especially if travelling to virus-affected areas, adopt the following to reduce exposure and transmission of a range of illnesses:

  • Wash hands regularly with water and soap or use hand sanitizer,
  • use tissue or handkerchief when coughing or sneezing and
  • avoid close contact when possible with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing or sneezing.

If anyone has any queries or need further guidance on the viral illness may contact the Ministry of Health at 23-200, extension 1321/1344/1319.

In the meantime, it has been reported that a Tongan sports team is expected to returning to Tonga next week from China, but no dates have been released for their arrival.

Family viruses

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses known to cause illness ranging from a common cold to more severe diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). 

While, investigations continue to determine further information about the virus, it is known that it can be transmitted from person to person, with signs and symptoms including  fever, cough, shortness of break, difficulty in breathing and diarrhea.

The Health Ministry said that currently China is responding to the virus, which is causing flu like illness.

It was first detected in Wuhan city, Hubei Province and since then travel-related cases have been reported in several other countries.

In China, the death toll has today jumped to 106 with almost over 4000 confirmed ill. At least 45 cases have been confirmed abroad, including in Germany, United States and Australia.

There have been no deaths outside China.