Tonga lockdown restrictions eased

Farewelling the HMAS Canberra as it departed Tonga following volcano, tsunami and COVID assistance this month. PHOTO: Government of Tonga

Lockdown restrictions in Tonga will be eased with businesses able to operate for three days starting on Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday, said the Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku Siasoi Sovaleni.

This means businesses such as retail shops, petrol stations, banks, restaurants and other businesses, who had already submitted operating processes to abide by COVID-19 protocols, can open from 5:00am to 8:00pm on these days.

The eased restrictions will start from 5:00am on Saturday, 2 April.

Funding support available for a range of sectors due to the restrictions was also announced by the Prime Minister, including support for businesses and the informal sector in Tonga, support for loans, tax, electricity, vulnerable groups, electorates, and education. The government will pay for Term 1 school fees for all students up to Form 7. This is estimated to cost between $1million (US$433,000) to $1.2million (US$532,000).

The government has agreed to subsidise the increase in the electricity price due to start in the April to June quarter.

This will cost an estimated to cost $1.7 million (US$754,000) for the next three months.

Minister for Finance Tatafu Moeaki said the Electricity Commission approved an increase of around 6 seniti per kilowatt.

“The government is providing support in two ways.”

“The first is to pay for the increase in price in the next quarter. This means the electricity price will remain at 91 seniti per kilowatt, and the government will pay for the increase.

The government will also pay 11 seniti per kilowatt for those using up to 150 kilowatts per month, he said.