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Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa has rejected claims the government was not properly preparing for a potential arrival of the deadly coronavirus.

Some Vaiola hospital doctors claimed the government’s allocation of its TP$60million Economic and Social Stimulus Package announced last week to combat Covid-19 crisis “was not very smart.”

Prime MInister Dr Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa. Photo/Kalino Lātū (Kaniva News)

The claims on Matangi Tonga Online said the doctors, who spoke to the webpage under condition of anonymity, alleged the Tu’i’onetoa “government has gone completely off-track when it should be throwing all resources to prepare for a flood of patients.’

The doctors reportedly said: “They have no doubt that when Covid-19 hits Tonga, the Ministry of Health will need thousands of beds.”

The doctors said it was “most urgent for Tonga to get our health facilities in better shape to try and cope with  Covid-19 when it reaches Tonga.”

“Because it will get here, sooner or later.”

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They criticised the decision by the government to use the hospital at Mu’a as an isolation facility ,saying it was “unsuitable because it was small and is very far away from Vaiola and the specialist radiology facility and laboratory.”

The doctors suggested using buildings at Tonga National Centre, which is situated across the road from Vaiola Hospital and is currently occupied by the Legislative Assembly.

PM Tu’i’onetoa’s response

Hon Tu’i’onetoa told Kaniva News the doctors’ claims were heedless, untrue and ill-advised. He said the doctors were utterly confused about the allocation of the package.

He said the funding package was correctly allocated according to proposals and recommendations submitted by nine government committees which determined what should be regarded as urgent needs for Tonga at this stage of the pandemic.

The Prime Minister said there was an allocation for the Ministry of Health’s urgent needs and if they needed more at any time that would be a top priority and must be provided.

“Because of that the claims by the doctors were untrue,” the Prime Minister said.

He said it was unfortunate these doctors were not being identified in the article so they could explain the government’s procedures. The Matangi Tonga online did not seek the government’s side of the story.

He said these doctors wanted to build a new hospital that could house thousands of beds in preparation for the Covid-19 once it arrived, but at this stage the government did not believe that should be first priority.

Government’s priority

The government’s priority was to stop the disease from entering Tonga, Hon. Tu’i’onetoa said.

He said that was the government’s main focus at this stage.

He said this was not a stage for the government to prepare to welcome the Covid-19 and prepare a place for it no matter what.    

This was the basis for the allocation of the social and economic stimulus package, he said.  

The Prime Minister said the government did not believe in what other countries had done. They waited and after their people contracted the disease they moved to impose controlling measures.

“The government believed it should put preventive measures in place first and in timely manner and way ahead to block any chance for the Covid-19 to come in,” Hon. Tu’i’onetoa said.

He said the doctors were free to express their opinion and that was their constitutional right, but the government did not agree with them because many countries had followed those ideas and the outcome backfired on them.   

Enough facilities and equipment

The Prime Minister said the Tonga National Centre could not be used as an isolation facility because it was being used as temporally Parliament.

“The government’s first priority was to make sure the people are safe, sound and healthy and protected from Covid-19,” he said.

He said if the government agreed with what the doctors claimed the people of Tonga would have already been infected and many would be dead.

The Prime Minister said the facilities the government had prepared and medical equipment it had purchased amid Coivid-19 crisis were sufficient at this stage.

He said the situation was being handled wisely to make sure Tonga did not lose its emphasis on what should be done first.

Border control measures

The Prime Minister said Covid-19 could only come into Tonga through the airports and the wharves.

“It cannot come into Tonga by itself,” he said.

“This was why the government was strict in controlling its borders and banning  Tongan-bound international flights to make sure no passengers can arrive in Tonga from overseas.”

The Prime Minister said all countries dealt with the disease differently and for Tonga it relied pretty much on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.   

He said Tonga observed a national fast last week which would continue on every weekend after the Easter break.

The main points

  • Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa has rejected claims the government was not properly preparing for a potential arrival of the deadly coronavirus.
  • Some Vaiola hospital doctors claimed the government’s allocation of its TP$60million Economic and Social Stimulus Package announced last week to combat Covid-19 crisis “was not very smart.”

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