Tonga lifts most COVID health restrictions

(September 7, 2022) Tourism workers at Fua’amotu International Airport.

After two-years and six-months, Tonga has lifted most of its COVID-19 health restrictions, including that for international travel and the national curfew, effective from September 27.

The border has now fully re-opened, with a requirement for foreign adults to provide proof of vaccination before arrival.

Tonga’s Acting Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu, with the CEO of Health, Dr. Siale ‘Akau’ola and MEIDECC CEO, Paula Ma’u, declared Tonga at a ‘green light level’ and the national night-time curfew lifted.

In more detail, Dr ‘Akau’ola said Tonga has only a few COVID-19 cases and the second wave of BA5 has exceedingly decreased, with number of deaths from COVID-19 remaining at 12.

“There is no threat to our health service and care, Tonga has a satisfactory level to return to normal. This is also the trend globally, as other countries have also returned to normal due to the downward trend of their COVID-19 cases.”

He said that the Ministry of Health made the recommendation to return to green to the National Emergency Management Committee (NEMC), who in return made the submission and approved by Cabinet last week. 

“Operations of all airlines and sea entry via cruise ships or yachts, have returned to normal procedures and will resume on their own, without any health orders applied,” said Dr ‘Akau’ola.

These approved conventions will allow all Tongans, foreigners and transit passengers travelling to Tonga to enter the country, without the mandatory COVID pre-departure testing. The mandatory testing to be carried out within three to five-days, upon arrival is also lifted.

“The only significant requirement that remains is that foreigners (12-years and over) are still required to show their vaccination card at check in before boarding, same with cruise ships, etc.

“Wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing, etc. are encouraged but not mandatory.”

At the same time, foreigners who are medically permitted not to get vaccinated, but wish to enter the country, will need to provide medical documents to the Ministry of Health in order to be permitted to travel.

“Furthermore, businesses wishing to remain enforcing their own COVID policies, such as wearing masks for staff and customers can continue to do so. Before, the health requirements were mandatory, now they are just encouraged,” he said.

Vaiola Hospital staff will continue to perform COVID tests at the hospital for people showing signs of flu-like symptoms, if they come in with those symptoms.

In addition, anyone testing positive upon confirmed COVID-19 test, will still need to self-isolate in their homes for five-days.

Meanwhile, the MRNA Moderna vaccine (SpikeVax), the second booster shots, are targeting high-risk people only. 

“There is no need for everyone to take this vaccine,” he said.

“Groups encouraged to take the second booster shot include; frontline workers, anyone planning to travel overseas, people aged 50 and above, and people who have underlying health issues.”

Meanwhile, Tonga’s two national States of Emergency have ended.

MEIDECC CEO said the two States of Emergency had completed its course and were not renewed.

“The State of Emergency for COVID-19, which has been ongoing for two-years and six-months is complete. The State of Emergency for Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai (HTHH) was also completed on September 25.”