Nuku’alofa – March 27, 2020: 12pm (Nuku’alofa Times): Keeping Tonga safe and free from the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is the focus of the Government of Tonga’s decision to implement a lockdown and curfew.
The decision, announced by Prime Minister Hon Dr Pohiva Tu’ionetoa at a media conference at Fa’onelua Convention Centre on Thursday evening, includes restrictions to movements, closure of certain services and the continuing of essential services that are needed.
Hon Dr Pohiva said the week-long lockdown will start at 1am on Sunday, March 29.
At the same time there will be a curfew from 8pm to 6am every night.
He said the lockdown is in response to the World Health Organisation declaration that the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) was a global Pandemic and was accelerating.
It is similar to steps being taken by governments in Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea and other Pacific countries.
Tonga has no confirmed COVID-19 case at the moment and the last two suspected cases at Vaiola Hospital have been cleared this morning.
The government announcement means everybody is expected to stay home, except when going out to buy essentials for their families; obtaining medical supplies or seeking medical assistance; going to the bank or going to work for an essential service provider.
All public transport will stop, except where exempted.
All liquor licensed bars, restaurants, night clubs, retail bottle shops and liquor manufacturers must stop trading.
All licensed businesses and business activities shall be closed except supermarkets and retail shops selling essential needs and other exempted places.
All public facilities, events and gatherings such as education institutions, religious, kava clubs, bingo, sports clubs, gyms, sporting events and activities, celebrations of birthdays, marriages and other recreational or related gatherings shall be prohibited.
Funerals will be restricted to 10 people indoors and 20 people outdoors, with an authorized officer to be present throughout.
Most levels of government have been recognised as essential services and will continue to operate normally.
Businesses that can stay open include any entity or person involved in the supply, delivery, distribution and sale of food, beverage and other key consumer goods essential for maintaining the wellbeing of people.
This does not include restaurants, cafes or takeaway shops.
The National Reserve Bank of Tonga, all banks, insurers, retirement and pension funds and other financial institutions, including any entity that contracts or provides services to them may stay open during the lockdown.
Pharmacies and private health and dental clinics can also remain open.
The list of exemptions also includes private security guards, telecom providers, as well as international development programmes.
The government has also granted an exemption to building and construction related to essential services and critical infrastructure and required to maintain human health and safety at home or work.
Courts and Tribunals have also been exempted.
The decision will be reviewed weekly.