The government will bring the first batch of stranded Tongans from Fiji starting next week, the Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa has confirmed to Kaniva News this afternoon.
He said the flight is expected to return medical doctors with their families as well as Tongan students in Fiji.
They will go through two weeks’ quarantine in Tonga until it’s safe for them to be allowed to help doctors in the kingdom.
He said more repatriation flights will follow through to allow the return of thousands of stranded Tongans and seasonal workers from New Zealand.
Hon Tu’i’onetoa said the repatriation flights from New Zealand will start no later than the first week of August.
He said there was growing concern about Tongan fruit pickers in New Zealand during the Covid-19 crisis.
He said Tonga will continue to close its borders to international passenger flights.
“First there is difference between closed border and repatriation flights and that should be made clear,” the Prime Minister told Kaniva News.
“Tonga’s borders will still be closed to any international passenger flights from other countries except for the repatriation flights for Tongans who wanted to return home.”
He said Tonga is still Covid-19 free because of the closure of its borders.
“But this is the beginning of returning of Tongans stranded overseas,” he said.
“Some countries like New Zealand have complained about behaviours of some Tongan Seasonal Workers.
“So we have no choice but to bring them back home,” the Prime Minister said.
Tonga suspended all international travel in March before it went into lockdown to curb Covid-19 infections.
Nearly 7,000 Tongans are expected to return to the kingdom during the repatriation operation.
As we reported earlier this morning, the Prime Minister reportedly said “the government is looking at an emergency plan after talks with New Zealand High Commissioner to Tonga yesterday (Wednesday).”
“Every passenger will be screened three days before leaving New Zealand and go through two weeks’ quarantine in Tonga until it’s safe for them to go home,” he told PMN.
This afternoon’s news comes after he told Parliament last week that the plan to open the border for incoming passengers between New Zealand and Tonga this week was deferred.
He also told the House the government has received two equipment required for screening of Covid-19 patients and that’s meant Tonga was in a better position in its fight to combat spread of Covid-19 pandemic.