30 Mar 2020

Tonga now in lockdown

10:47 am on 30 March 2020

Tonga's week-long national lockdown began on Sunday as authorities strive to keep the country Covid-19 free.

There have been no confirmed cases in Tonga with eight suspected cases returning negative tests last week.

RNZ Pacific correspondent, Kalafi Moala

RNZ Pacific correspondent, Kalafi Moala Photo: RNZ Pacific

Despite this the government introduced a State of Emergency and a lockdown, including a night curfew, which began on Sunday.

Our correspondent Kalafi Moala said Sunday was eerie as it was normally a day the nation set aside for attending church.

"The only thing that we know it was Sunday is because of the bells ringing but there were no church services, or if there were church services they were held in the home. On a Sunday, with a lockdown, it was absolutely amazing how quiet the town [was]."

Public gatherings had been limited, nightclubs, bars and kava clubs were shut and people were advised to practice social distancing.

Concerts, sports events, funerals, weddings and birthdays were also heavily restricted.

Kalafi Moala said people appeared to be following the stringent new measures introduced.

That was despite some of the restrictions severely hampering Tongans' ability to practice their cultural norms.

"There's a lot of Tongan men, they go to kava clubs at night. So there's a lot of those social events, even funerals. Families are warned that if there are funerals, they may not be able to attend, even of their loved ones. So this is something absolutely revolutionary in terms of Tongan culture."

Kalafi Moala said it seemed everyone was supportive of the measures to protect the community.

"Our government may be trying to learn from how the New Zealand government has been operating," he said.

"Very clear communication, very decisive and timely and people understand what it's all about."

He said multiple government ministers and CEOs had fronted press conferences to give the public information over the past week.

Nuku'alofa's main street

Nuku'alofa's main street Photo: RNZ Pacific / Koro Vaka'uta

Meanwhile eight more flights have been diverted away from Tonga in the second week of diversions.

The CEO of Health, Siale 'Akau'ola issued the orders of the weekend saying they were necessary to prevent the introduction of Covid-19 to the country.