While no cases of coronavirus have been identified in Tonga, the country has raised its alert level from high to very high, in a fourth travel advisory issued today, aimed at preventing the virus from entering the country.
Tonga's Ministry of Health is highly concerned about the risk of importation of the COVID-19 infection into Tonga due to the significant health impacts it might 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 in compliance with the WHO Risk Assessment at the global level.”
All international travelers arriving in Tonga, are required complete the Traveler's Arrival Health Declaration Card and provide it to the Ministry of Health Border Control Team upon arrival.
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In addition, travelers originating from or transiting through China, Italy, Iran, Daegu Province and Cheongdo County (Republic of Korea) are required to have spent at least 14-days self quarantine outside of China and the listed countries, and provinces.
International travelers originating from or transiting through the listed countries, provinces and counties are also required tol obtain a medical clearance (confirming travelers are free of symptoms of acute respiratory illness) prior to departure from the last port of entry into Tonga.
However, this restriction does not apply to: Tongan citizens, permanent residents or their immediate (nuclear) family members, and international travelers who have not been in China, Italy, Iran, Daegu Province and Cheongdo County (Republic of Korea) in the 14-days prior to arrival in Tonga.
“Those exempted under above, but who have been to China, Italy, Iran, Daegu Province and Cheongdo County (Republic of Korea) within 14-days of their arrival in Tonga, shall report to the Ministry of Health Border Control Team for health quarantine measures.”
At the same time, all international travelers, who upon arrival in Tonga, reflect symptoms of COVID-19 as determined by the Ministry of Health Border Control Team, shall undergo health quarantine measures.
The Ministry of Health said it would then notify and work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to liaise, if needed, with the relevant authorities of the country of citizenship of such traveler.
Meanwhile, vessel operators and airlines operating in Tonga are required to report to the Ministry of Health, the presence of any sick person on board as required under the International Health Regulations (2005).
“It is strongly recommended that all persons intending to travel to China, Italy, Iran, Daegu Province and Cheongdo County (Republic of Korea) or any country affected by the COVID-19, postpone their travel arrangements unless necessary,” stated the advice.
All international cruise ships scheduled to arrive in Tonga this month as specified in an Order by the CEO of Health, are being diverted from Tonga.
The travel advisory was issued by the Minister for Health Hon ‘Amelia Afuha’amango Tu’ipulotu, who said this is due to the current global outbreaks of COVID-19.
"The Ministry of Health is closely monitoring this outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19) that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which continues to expand.”
To date, no confirmed cases have been reported in the Pacific island countries.
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are 90,936 confirmed cases as of 3 March, and 3,117 deaths, and 47,995 recovered. Iran now has the highest death rate (66) outside of China and South Korea has the highest number of confirmed cases at 4,812 outside of China.