Tongan Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’I’onetoa announced on Friday, April 3, that the nationwide lockdown that came into effect on March 29 will be extended through Sunday, April 12, to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). All individuals are required to stay at home during the lockdown period except for those buying essential items such as food or medicine, traveling to the bank, or workers of an essential service provider. An overnight curfew is also in effect from 20:00 until 06:00 (local time) and will be enforced by members of the security forces.
Other containment measures also remain in place as of Friday. All gatherings of more than ten people indoors and 20 people outdoors are prohibited. Bars, restaurants, night clubs, and shops selling non-essential goods are also closed. However, from Sunday, April 5, Vendors selling agricultural and fishery items will be allowed to reopen for business, while inter-island marine transport has been reinstated within Ha’apai, Vava’u, and Niua. All international flights are being diverted from Tonga until at least Monday, April 6.
As of April 3, no cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.