The first repatriation flight from New Zealand to Tonga is expected to leave Auckland tomorrow morning.
About 140 Tongans will be on the flight.
Passengers will have to prove they have been tested and found to be free of the virus.
Health CEO Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola said passengers would include doctors, nurses, police, soldiers, public servants including one Government CEO, who all remain on the government pay roll.
They were being given priority because they were needed in Tonga to support the repatriation work.
Half of those going home will be Recognised Seasonal Employee workers who have been stranded in New Zealand for months by the Covid-19 lockdown and border closures.
Priority for RSE workers has been given to workers whose parents or spouses have died.
As reported in Kaniva News, the Tongan government has said its priority is to keep the kingdom safe from the Covid-19 virus, which means it will bring home Tongans from countries where there is no community transmission.
The government said last month that eventually everybody who wanted to come home would be flown back, but asked families to be patient.
It has been 93 days since New Zealand last saw a case of COVID-19 with no known source.
However, parts of Australia, where Tongan seasonal workers are also stranded, are in crisis, with the southern state of Victoria facing an emergency.
There were direct flights from Melbourne and Sydney to Nuku’alofa in the past.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern said today Australia would need to have 28 continual days with no community transmission before any trans-Tasman bubble could be established which would allow regular travel.
It is understood that about 2000 have registered on the government’s repatriation website to be flown home.
Meanwhile, Tonga’s Health Minister is recovering in Vaiola hospital, but is expected to return to work tomorrow.
The main points
- The first repatriation flight from New Zealand to Tonga is expected to leave Auckland tomorrow morning.
- About 140 Tongans will be on the flight.