Tonga recovering from Cyclone Harold

Tonga felt the brunt of Cyclone Harold this morning as the storm, packing gusts of up to 260 km/hr, passed to the south of Nuku'alofa.

The cyclone had already devastated the central islands of Vanuatu and parts of Fiji.

Cyclone Harold weakened slightly between Vanuatu and Fiji, but overnight it re-intensified and struck at the same time as king tides were due in the kingdom, increasing the likelihood of damaging surges.

RNZ Pacific's correspondent Kalafi Moala is based in Nuku'alofa and he said there was heavy rain and strong winds in the capital this morning.

New Zealand provides significant COVID-19 support to Tonga

NZ$10 million is also available for requests from the Pacific Island countries preparing their health systems to deal with COVID-19. We have already received and are urgently responding to a number of these requests.

As part of New Zealand’s COVID-19 support, New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has provided NZ$4 million to the Government of Tonga in general budget support. This contribution is intended to respond to the wide-ranging health, economic, and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

TC Harold strengthens overnight to a category 5

Reports from Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa say strong winds were being felt there and there were power outages in some areas.

Tonga's government has announced a State of Emergency because of Cyclone Harold - the second in a month.

In March the government made a similar declaration to help prevent the introduction of Covid-19 into the kingdom.

Late yesterday, in a statement, Prime Minister Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa said as an emergency was about to happen due to the destructive force winds and sea rises caused by the cyclone, it was necessary to make another declaration.

Tonga remains virus free as latest suspects test negative

The Minister of Health, Associate Professor ‘Amelia Tu’ipulotu, told a press conference this morning this meant Tonga remained Covid-19 free.

She said 400 passengers traveled from Fiji and New Zealand between March 19 – 21 at a time when passengers from these countries did not have to be isolated once they arrived in Tonga.

These people were later traced and checked by the Ministry to make sure they did not have the Covid-19’s symptoms.

Kaniva News reports the last report from the Ministry showed 400 people had been checked and 396 people were not sick.

CAT 5 TC Harold predicted to pass close South of Tongatapu and ‘Eua later this week

Director of TMS ‘Ofa Fa’anunu told the National Emergency Management Committee (NEMC) this afternoon (Monday) that TC Harold is now moving over Vanuatu and is predicted to head towards the south of Fiji.

He said that the cyclone is expected to pass close Tongatapu and ‘Eua on Thursday April 9 or Friday morning April 10.

“TC Harold was developed from Tropical Depression (TD) 12F in the Solomon Islands and was named by the Brisbane Tropical Cyclone Warming Center on Thursday, 02 April 2020 around 10pm local time.”

Tonga remains COVID-19 free

According to the latest situation report released by the Joint Secretariat for National Emergency Management Committee (NEMC) and National Task Force (NTF) for COVID-19 Response, there are no suspected cases too.

However, authorities say Tonga is still on high risk due to its population demography and social economic conditions.

As per the available information the following group of people are on higher risk

· The elderly

· People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma

· People who have serious heart conditions

Tonga Supreme Court rejects appeal by Minister of Justice over charges of threatening police

The charge arose out of an incident on January 12 2019, during a police investigation concerning a stolen cow.

According to Kaniva News, the Minister is alleged to have telephoned the police officers involved and said:

“Why did you take Faioso’s cow? And stop working like a tough guy before I shoot the shit out of a Police and had Faioso found you all of his farm, he  would have shot the shit out of you. “

The Appellant was subsequently charged with having breached sections 57 and 65 of the Criminal Offences Act.

In-country COVID-19 testing for 17 Pacific Island countries expected soon

According to the Director of the Public Health Division of the Pacific Community (SPC) Paula Vivili, only five countries currently are able to offer in-country testing.

These countries are Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea

The future of rugby unions in Pacific uncertain

For unions like Samoa, Fiji and Tonga, commercial viability was already challenging and with USA Rugby filing for bankruptcy along with larger rugby nations facing serious financial worries, Pacific clubs and unions were becoming concerned for their future.

The CEO of Samoa Rugby, Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea'i, said he was seeking financial support from World Rugby.

Tonga National Lockdown extended to 12 April

A notice issued by the government said pursuant to sections 36 and 37 of the Emergency Management Act 2007, I hereby renew the National Lockdown Notice dated 26 March 2020 to be applied over all the land and seas of Tonga to continue commencing from 1:00am on Sunday 5 April 2020 to 1:00am Sunday 12 April 2020, unless further renewed.

(1) The terms and conditions of the National Lockdown Notice dated 26 March 2020 shall continue to apply.

(2) The following services shall be added to Appendix A of the National Lockdown Notice dated 26 March 2020–