Protection against novel coronavirus importation in Tonga (Travel advisory#5)

The Ministry of Health of Tonga hereby issues this Travel Advisory due to the current status of COVID-19 and the recent declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

The Ministry of Health is closely monitoring this pandemic of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (termed “COVID-19”) that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which continues to expand. To date, three confirmed cases has been reported in the Pacific Island Countries and Territories.

The Ministry of Health is seriously concerned about the high risk of importation of COVID-19 into Tonga due to the significant health impacts it will have. There is a very high risk of an outbreak which has the potential to cause huge economic loss to the country. The country alert level is therefore raised from “high” to “very high” according to WHO Risk Assessment.

In exercise of the powers stipulated under the Public Health Act, the following travel advisory is issued and shall apply to all ports of entry in the Kingdom of Tonga.

1. All travellers arriving in Tonga, shall complete the Traveler’s Arrival Health Declaration Card, and provide it to the Ministry of Health Border Control Team upon arrival.

2. All foreign travellers, originating from or transiting through countries listed below.

i. Spend at least 14 days self-quarantine outside of the countries listed below.  Upon the completion of this period, the foreign travelers shall;

ii. Obtain medical clearance (confirming travelers are free of signs and symptoms of acute respiratory illness) within 3 days prior to arrival to Tonga.

Failure to follow all of the above recommendations will result in refusal of entry into Tonga. This restriction shall NOT apply to the following categories of person:

a) Tongan citizens, permanent residents and their immediate (nuclear) family members;

b) Foreign travelers who have not been in the countries listed in below in the past 14 days of arriving in Tonga.

c) Experts authorized by the Ministry of Health to assist with COVID-19 preparations and response.

3. Those exempted under paragraph 2(a) above, who have been into the list of restricted countries in Annex 1 within 14 days of their arrival in Tonga shall;

i. Provide a medical clearance within 3 days prior to arrival to Tonga; AND

ii. Report and register with the Ministry of Health Border Control Team for 14 days quarantine in Tongatapu.

4. All travelers, who upon arrival in Tonga, qualifies a suspect case of COVID-19 as determined by the Ministry of Health Border Control Team in accordance with the Declaration of an Emergency Notifiable Condition, shall comply with their directions and undergo 14 days quarantine in Tongatapu.

a. For foreign travelers, the Ministry of Health shall notify and work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to liaise, if needed, with the relevant authorities of the country of citizenship of the foreign traveler.

5. The vessel operators and airlines operating in Tonga are advised not to allow boarding of any passenger with symptoms of COVID-19 and shall report to the Ministry of Health the presence of any sick person on board as per requirements under the International Heath Regulations (2005).

6. It is strongly recommended that all persons intending to travel to countries listed below i, or any country affected by COVID-19 to postpone their travel arrangements.

7. All international flights and vessels entering Tonga shall use Tongatapu as the first port of entry for border screening prior to re-routing to outer islands. In addition, all international flights from Australia, Fiji, and New Zealand to Tonga will be reduced.

8. All international cruise ships and yachts scheduled to arrive after the 19th of March 20202 shall not be granted entry into Tonga until further notice.

This Travel Advisory is issued by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It will be effective from 1:00am on 19.03.2020 and it may be further reviewed and updated as required.