6 Jul 2020

Tonga to start repatriation of stranded residents

8:42 am on 6 July 2020
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Photo: AFP/Torsten Blackwood

The Government of Tonga has annouced that the first repatriation flight for Tongans overseas will begin on Thursday 9 July.

This is a flight from Fiji and expected to bring 40 Tongans.

Repatriation flights from New Zealand are planned for the first week of August, but discussions between the two governments are still ongoing.

The Prime Minister Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa said in a radio broadcast that they had done two drills on how to handle those repatriated, and they were confident that proper testing and quarantine procedures would prevent the transmission of the Covid 19 virus from those arriving in Tonga.

A charter flight is also organised by one of the churches in Tonga, bringing back their missionaries from Solomon Islands, and stopping in Vanuatu and Samoa to pick up others.

The Government announced that eventually all those needing repatriation to Tonga would be returned, "but the families must be patient, as they are doing their best to make sure that repatriation is safe" and will protect Tonga.

As yet, Tonga is one of the few countries in the Pacific that is Covid 19 free.

It is estimated there are 7000 Tongans overseas that need repatriation. New Zealand alone has about 1000. Other countries where Tongans are at and need repatriation include Australia, USA, Fiji, China, Japan and Britain.