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Tonga extends border closure until mid-June

Tonga's Fua'amotu airport
Meanwhile, some Pacific countries ease lockdown
Source: RNZ Pacific

Nuku'alofa, TONGA — Tonga has extended its border closure until 12 June.

The country closed its border and order the cancellation of all inbound and outbound flights last month, in a bid to prevent Covid-19 entering.

Some exceptions on border entry have been made for repatriation and humanitarian flights.

The government yesterday decided that the border closure will be extended until mid-June.

However, restrictions on movement and gatherings in the kingdom have been relaxed, with schools reopening this week.


Some Pacific Island countries are beginning to emerge from lockdown, the number of Covid-19 cases across the region inches towards 300.

Across the region there are 135 cases in Guam with 2 deaths, 55 cases in French Polynesia, 18 in New Caledonia, 17 in Fiji, 13 in the Northern Marianas including 2 deaths and 7 in Papua New Guinea.

Today, the Federated States of Micronesia registered its first suspected Covid-19 related death.

The male patient in Yap state hospital was one of three under investigation for coronavirus infection. He died early this morning from pneumonia having been in isolation since 14 April after presenting with severe respiratory distress.

The two other suspected cases arrived from Guam on 18 March - they are in isolation in Yap state hospital. Specimen sample results from all three cases are expected in coming days.

Yap is now in lockdown as the governor has enforced a curfew and movement restrictions.

Meanwhile, other countries, without the virus, are beginning to emerge from lockdown as their quarantine periods begin to end.

Samoa has lifted restrictions on public transport with inter-island ferries and buses in operation although with limited passenger numbers. Schools remain closed but restaurants are allowed to open for takeaway service.

In Tonga, government services are back in full operation and schools are open although an 8pm to 6am curfew remains.

Even some territories with the virus are starting to ease lockdown measures, including New Caledonia which is to scale back on restrictions imposed on 24 March.

After 12 days without any positive tests, the French High Commission and the New Caledonian government will allow for free movement and the opening of businesses from Monday.

Meanwhile, in Fiji the government has extended the country's Covid-19 quarantine period from 14 days to 28 days.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the move this followed Fiji's 17th confirmed case of the coronavirus.

However he said the progress of Covid-19 screening and contact tracing efforts had kept the country on track, and resulted in the lockdown of Suva being lifted today. But the prime minister issued a warning to citizens regarding the end of lockdown.

"The end of the lockdown is not cause for celebration. It is not a reason to have large grog sessions or drinking parties.

"It is not a justification to stay out past 8pm. It is not an excuse to leave your homes for no good reason."


Papua New Guinea's prime minister James Marape is among a number of government ministers being tested for Covid-19.

This comes after Mr Marape yesterday confirmed five new cases of Covid-19 in the country.

This includes one person in Port Moresby who has been working at the National Operations Centre controlling PNG's pandemic response.

Under orders of the Emergency Controller, Police Commissioner David Manning, the centre went into lockdown yesterday as staff and others were reportedly to be tested.

There are now seven confirmed coronavirus cases in PNG. Three have been registered in Western Province, located at the border with Indonesia.

Indonesian-administered Papua region, or West Papua, had 80 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of Friday, according to the country's Health Ministry. Three people have died so far.

Meanwhile, the PNG government is looking to increase testing, but Police Minister Bryan Kramer said it was faced with a low stock of testing kits and was ordering more from overseas.


The Northern Marianas governor says he is not anticipating a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases.

Ralph Torres has acknowledged the work that local residents and businesses have been doing in abiding to the social distancing measures that government has been implementing since the pandemic reached the islands.

He said this was the reason why the Commonwealth's coronavirus curve remained flat and the islands hadn't seen sharp increases in confirmed cases, unlike other areas around the region and in the US.

The CNMI has 13 confirmed cases of Covid-19, two deaths, and nine recoveries.

Governor Torres also yesterday renewed the Declaration of a State of Significant Emergency which he declared last month due to the pandemic.

He also said that free community-based testing would begin soon with the arrival of the first batch of 20,000 Covid-19 testing kits from South Korea.

He earlier said that the CNMI government has ordered 60,000 of test kits that came with the testing machine and a South Korean doctor to initially monitor the results.