Small size could help kingdom in fight against coronavirus, Health CEO says, but says Ministry is preparing for “worst case” scenario

    Tonga’s small size could be an advantage in fighting the coronavirus if it entered the kingdom, according to Ministry of Health CEO, Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola.

    “In bigger countries like America you can see how difficult it is because it is so big,” Dr ‘Akau’ola said.

    “I feel if the virus does come to Tonga, it will be easy for us to contain it.

    “I don’t think we should look at it and compare it to other countries. I think for us as a developing country we should do what is practical, what is feasible and what can get results.”

    While Tonga’s health authorities were preparing for a “worst case” scenario,  Dr ‘Akau’ola said he believed that 98% of people infected by the coronavirus recovered.

    His  comments came as Tongan Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’ionetoa declared a public health emergency.

    The declaration, which will remain in place until June 12, gives the Ministry of Health more power to stop mass gatherings such as kava clubs.

    The public has to obey all of the Ministry’s instructions and plans to prepare, prevent and respond to the threat of the corona virus, which is now being referred to as COVID-19.

    However, the government said business would continue as normal where possible.

    As Kaniva news we reported last week, the World Health Organisation has  named Tonga as one of the countries receiving special assistance.

    WHO staff are already in the kingdom to help fight the virus.

    New Zealand exemption

    Meanwhile, Tongans travelling to New Zealand will not be subject to compulsory self-quarantine rules for travelers entering the country under touch new laws announced yesterday.

    The new regulations, among the toughest on the planet, were announced  by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern. 

    They promise to cause major disruption to tourism, sporting teams and touring musicians and artists.

    However, the government said people from the Pacific Islands would be exempt from the special requirement to self isolate.

    The government’s regulations came in the wake of Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s decision to  cancel this year’s Pasifika festival because, he said, many people from the Islands were travelling to Auckland for the event and he did not want to risk people contracting the virus and taking it home.

    He said many Pacific Islands had limited resources to fight the virus.

    Latest figures

    According to WHO figures released on Saturday, globally there have been 142,539 confirmed cases and 5393 deaths.

    In China there have been 81,021 confirmed cases and 3194 deaths.

    Outside of China there have been 61, 518 confirmed cases and 2199 deaths.

    The only countries in our region with the disease are New Zealand – where the number rose to eight on March 15 –  Australia, with 197 cases and three deaths and French Polynesia, which has one case.

    Tonga’s first suspected case has tested negative.

    The main points

    • Tonga’s small size could be an advantage in fighting the coronavirus if it entered the kingdom, according to Ministry of Health CEO, Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola.
    • While Tonga’s health authorities were preparing for a “worst case” scenario,  Dr ‘Akau’ola said he believed that 98% of people infected by the coronavirus recovered.

    For more information

    Festival cancellation decision ‘should have been taken a long time ago’

    Live coronavirus updates: All the latest developments from NZ and around the world

    WHO Coronavirus situation report No 54

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