The Tonga Government said today it is supporting Tongan nationals who remained stranded in Fiji, after Tonga closed its borders to repatriation flights from Fiji.
Tonga's National Emergency Management Committee (NEMC) was responding to complaints made by frustrated Tongans in Fiji who wanted to return home and who questioned why they were neglected.
“The stranded Tongan nationals in Fiji, both in transit and students, are being supported by the Tongan Government with living allowances,” stated NEMC, who advised them to get vaccinated.
There are currently 2,608 Tongan nationals and residents stranded overseas, according to the government's figures.
“At this stage, the suitable strategy for those intending to return home is to get vaccinated,” it advised.
NEMC stated that repatriation of Tongan nationals and residents from Fiji and other COVID-19 hotspots was currently suspended, due to the high risk of COVID-19 delta variant entering into Tonga.
They indicated that the decision will not change until more Tongans are vaccinated.
“NEMC continues to assess and review the situation in Fiji, while aiming for the vaccination coverage in Tonga to attain around 70% by the end of the year,” the committee stated on the government website www.gov.to.
“Government cannot allow the delta variant to enter Tonga nor take on this high-risk exercise at this point in time. So persons who have resided for more than 14-days in a COVID-19 free country such as Vanuatu, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu or Nauru can enter Tonga on direct flights. Flights from COVID-19 transmission locations like Fiji, New Zealand and Australia are presently postponed based on assessment by the NEMC.”
“Tonga has a strong desire to repatriate all 2,608 Tongan nationals and residents who are currently stranded overseas. But to those stranded in places such as Fiji which are considered hot spots for COVID-19 transmission, especially delta variant are unfortunately affected, due to the suspension of flights.”
“Once the target of 70% COVID-19 vaccination coverage is achieved, Government would be in a position to revise its repatriation plan.”
It stated that as one of the few remaining COVID-19 freecountries in the world, ‘Tonga takes all measures to ensure that its nationals are given safe passage to the Kingdom without compromising the safety and lives of Tongans in the country.”