By Kalino Lātū,, editor of Kaniva Tonga
Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa announced today the Pacific kingdom of Tonga is now in a state of emergency, effective at 8.30pm tonight until 17 April 2020.
He said the declaration was subject to further review and Samoa has also declared a state of emergency.
Tu’i’onetoa said Tonga had closed its borders to everyone but citizens and residents in an attempt to stop the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
The government banned indoor gatherings of more than 20 and outdoor gatherings of more than 40 people.
Weddings, funerals, concerts, kava clubs, nightclubs and sports are also banned.
The measures did not apply to churches and schools.
Tu’i’onetoa made the announcement during a news conference this afternoon.
He said all travelers from overseas would have to undergo a 14-day quarantine except doctors, nurses and other health care workers who will arrive in Tonga to help with the crisis.
Tu’i’onetoa said there had been no confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19 in Tonga.
The state of emergency means many closures and restrictions are now required to be followed by law.
“It is clear that this is a public emergency in Tonga. I therefore satisfy [sic] that Covid-19 is a public health emergency and is imminent and will threaten and endanger lives of people in Tonga,” the Prime Minister said.
“Therefore this requires a significant and coordinated response.
“The powers under sections 30 and 37 of the Act shall be invoked to prevent and minimise illness and loss of human life.
“I therefore issue this declaration of a State of Emergency to be applied all over the land and sea areas of Tonga commencing from 20hrs of 20 March until 17 April 2020, unless further review.”
Samoa closes borders to foreign nationals
Samoa has also declared a state of emergency which comes into effect midnight tonight, reports RNZ Pacific.
The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, announced the measures will be in effect for 14 days.
The Samoa Observer newspaper reported the order, included the shutting down of the border for all except returning Samoan citizens.
There have been restrictions placed on public gatherings to a total of five.
Public transport is to be temporarily halted with nightclubs, restaurants and cinemas also closed.
Travel to the island of Savai’i has been limited to just three days a week.
Non-essential public servants are also having their hours reduced.
This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre with permission under its partnerships with Kaniva Tonga and RNZ.