Preparation vital to keeping Covid-19 free as Tonga prepares for first NZ repatriation flight

    Remaining Covid-19 free was the most important consideration during the kingdom’s repatriation process according to Ministry of Health CEO, Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola.

    Dr ‘Akau’ola said while New Zealand was pushing for the Pacific Islands to repatriate their people, it needed to recognise that Tonga needed to prepare properly.

    “Even though repatriating our people back is slow, every step has to be confirmed,” Dr ‘Akau’ola said.

    “These little steps can put us at risk.”

    The Tongan government said this morning it would begin bringing back Tongans from New Zealand no later than the first week of August.

    The number of passengers to be flown home has yet to be announced.

    Some of the Tongans stranded in Auckland told Kaniva News they had yet to hear from the government since registering online.

    At a press conference in Nuku’alofa this morning MEIDECC CEO Paula Ma’u said 1700 Tongans stranded in New Zealand had registered online to fly home.

    Among the people stuck in New Zealand were professionals who were required to assist the Ministry of Health and other countries’ diplomatic staff.

    A total of 2724 Tongans had registered online wanting to return to Tonga.

    Samoa

    Dr ‘Akau’ola said yesterday health officials were also looking at Pacific neighbours to see how they were coping.

    He said Samoa was struggling to accommodate large groups of repatriated citizens.

    “Samoa’s accommodation is full of repatriated citizens,” he said.

    “When Samoan seasonal workers were returned they were taken to a big hall where they are all staying.

    “I feel Samoa is struggling. I hope we will not reach the same level, where we can’t properly control the situation. We need to be ready to properly repatriate our people.”

    He suggested large groups, such as seasonal workers, should be split into smaller groups.

    “We need to be ready to accommodate them where they will fit,” Dr ‘Akau’ola said.

    “Not a large bubble but small bubbles, such as six people.”

    The main points

    • The Tongan government said this morning it would begin bringing back Tongans from New Zealand no later than the first week of August.
    • The number of passengers to be flown home has yet to be announced.

     

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