Tonga postpones repatriation flight after Fiji confirms 3 covid-19 cases

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A Fiji Airways aircraft ... Tongan repatriation flight plan changes were announced at a livestreamed media conference. Image: Kaniva Tonga

By Kalino Latu in Auckland

The first repatriation flight to return stranded Tongans from Fiji which was supposed to start today as announced by the government has been postponed until the weekend.

A statement yesterday afternoon from the Prime Minister’s office said: “The passengers are required to be tested for covid-19 before boarding the aircraft.

“The public are hereby informed that the repatriation flight from Nadi, Fiji tomorrow, Thursday, July 09, is deferred to Saturday, July 11 at a time to be confirmed.”

READ MORE: Al Jazeera coronavirus live updates – US cases pass 3 million

In a media conference which was livestreamed through Facebook yesterday afternoon, the Ministry of Health CEO, Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola, said the policy had been changed after Fiji detected three new active cases of covid-19.

Fiji now has three new cases of coronavirus following two more positive tests on Tuesday had been reported after 80 days since its last previous case was cleared.

A 37-year-old man tested positive for covid-19 in border quarantine, while the second case is a 36-year-old woman – both Fiji citizens repatriated from India on July 1.

The man is the son of the 66-year-old man who tested positive on Monday, July 6, acting permanent Secretary for Health Dr James Fong told media.

Three new cases
Dr Fong said the 66-year-old man was on the flight from Delhi on July 4.

He said the man was returning from a medical procedure in India and was accompanied by his son.

“The pair were travelling with 107 other passengers,” said Dr Fong. “The man was transported to the hospital for isolation.”

On Tuesday, Dr Fong confirmed the man’s son and a woman on the flight had also tested positive for the virus.

He said all three were isolated in hospital and the woman’s husband was being tested.

Medical staff
Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa told Kaniva News last week the flight from Fiji was expected to bring some medical staff and their families as well as Tongan students in Fiji.

They will go through two weeks’ quarantine on arrival.

Tu’i’onetoa said the repatriation flights from New Zealand would start no later than the first week of August.

Tonga has remained free of the coronavirus so far.

Kalino Latu is editor of Kaniva Tonga. The Tongan online news website partners with the Pacific Media Centre.

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Kaniva News is an Auckland-based Tongan news and entertainment service that provides a unique bilingual news, cultural and musical services in Tongan and English using digital print, video, performance and audio. We are the only Tonga/English bilingual news service in New Zealand.

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