The Minister of Health once again told parliament yesterday the government is working on a proposal for travelers having to stay in quarantine facilities in Tonga to be charged up to $4,000 for their stay.
The measure, which is expected to come into force in July, apply to Tongans stranded overseas and foreign nationals wanted to come to Tonga.
It is the latest twist in what has been described as conflicting answers coming from the government last week with the Minister of Finance denying there was such proposal.
The government is currently paying up to $4,000 to managed isolation and quarantine facilities (MIQ) per traveler. It pays about $600,000 to isolate passengers arriving per repatriated flight.
Communication (MEIDECC) CEO Paula Ma’u has confirmed to Kaniva News last week the proposal is currently underway for passengers to pay their stay in MIQ from their own pockets.
He previously said work to create the proposal was endorsed by the National Emergency Management Committee and National Committee for Covid-19.
He said when the proposal is completed it will be submitted to the two committees and if they approve it the proposal will then go to Cabinet for final decision.
Ma’u said the proposal was initiated after the costs for the managed isolation facilities were too expensive for the government to pay.
The planned quarantine fee was raised in parliament last week by former Minister of Health Saia Piukala.
The plan sparked heated debates online with critics calling on the government to withdraw the proposal.
Critics argued that the Tongan returnees were people who got stuck overseas because of Covid-19 and most of them were on visitor’s visas.
They said this was not a good proposal for people who returned from New Zealand and Australian seasonal worker programmes because the quarantine fees would be an equivalent of up to eight-week working in the farms.