Tonga’s first repatriation drill successful

Ola lelei 'a e teuteu ki he tali e kau Folau mei muli

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Nuku’alofa, Tonga  – The first drill for COVID – 19 repatriation flight was a success according to the Repatriation Plan Committee.

CEO for Health Dr. Siale ‘Akau’ola said the objectives of the drill was to “ensure that all the logistics and coordination processes are properly in place, and that all officials involved fully understand their respective roles and responsibilities and to also identify gaps in the process.”

The four phases of the repatriation flight process started from the arrangements in Auckland up to boarding the aircraft, arrival in Tonga and processes at the airport, arrangements at the quarantine facility and processes for a probable confirmed case and release.

Fifty students from Queen Salote School of Nursing represented the first 50 passengers arriving from Auckland, New Zealand at Fua’amotu International Airport.

Assumed disembarked, passengers were greeted at the tarmac by Health Officials, Police and few members of the Airport Monitoring Committee, and guided each and everyone to the terminal building for the usual Health, Customs and Quarantine inspection processes. Social distancing and mass gathering protocols were strictly observed at all times by the passengers, which are clearly marked inside the terminal building.

Upon claiming each luggage, passengers were guided to pick up point outside the terminal building to the buses, where they were escorted by Police to the quarantine facility at the Tanoa Hotel at Nuku’alofa.IMG_1158 copy

Upon arrival at Tanoa Hotel, Tonga Police had secured the roads surrounding the hotel and His Majesty’s Armed Forces guarded the entrance and the hotel compound. Passengers picked up their room keys at the entrance and directed for a health and security briefing before taking their assigned rooms. According to Dr. Siale ‘Akau’ola, passengers will be tested at designated stations inside the hotel, and they will receive the result on the same day or the next.

“If someone is confirmed to have COVID-19, that person will be transferred to Mu’a Health Centre, while suspected cases will be transferred to Taliai Camp. Passengers will be tested again on their day 14 of quarantine before going home to their families.”

The first 50 passengers will be selected from the online registration entries, of which more than 900 people have been registered as of this morning. A selection criteria and sub-committee will be established, and based and guided by the Open Border Policy & Repatriation Plan.

The next drill is set to next week or close to the first passenger flight coming into Tonga after COVID-19 lockdown.

Hon. Fatafehi Filipe, Minister for MEIDECC, Hon. Poasi Tei, Minister for Health, Hon. Dr ‘Amelia Tu’ipulotu and Minister for Internal Affairs, Hon. Vatau Hui also joined the mock exercise.

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