COVID-19 Impact
Sione Talanoa

My Personal Views

Any health threat such as COVID-19 whether originated from any particular country or state should be considered as an international threat in the sense that no one could predict the spreading potential and limitless power of the threat. There is no boundary for any health issue as we have witnessed for the COVID-19, SAR outbreak in 2003, EBOLA threat in most African countries since 1976 and various flu pandemics and epidemics.

With this view in hand, we expect aggressive and effective international response to minimize or even eradicate the health threat thus preventing an pandemic health situation. The complexity of each nation’s vision, mission, potential, capability, law, signed conventions, MOU, government system (democracy, communism etc.) internal institution and politics are a barrier to achievement of the expectation of an effective and successful international response. The public and even government fear of the uncertainty compounded with its lack of resources, experts, internal politics, bad governance, ineffective management, ineffective international coordination and corruption provide a poor platform for effective response. However, our expectation is not in vain because there is a way and that’s when the most powerful nations of the world hop in to lead, joint planning, manage, motivate, coordinate, provide, share, monitor and even control all response strategies in order to effectively and successfully address the health threat

Tonga’s Response

Tonga, an important part of this region, has not confirmed any positive case of COVID-19. All three suspected sick people were taken to the main hospital (Vaiola) at the main island for care and custody, with medical samples sent to New Zealand and Australia for testing, which returned negative. In a coordinated effort, both advanced nations are conducting medical checks for COVID-19 on all passengers departing to Tonga. The government has been conducting its screening of passengers from international arrival. It has refused entry and directed departure of 3 to 4 cruise ships. All foreigners are prohibited from travelling to Tonga except citizens. Medical checks of sick people with fever or sickness that could be suspected of COVID-19 are separated with medical samples send to New Zealand or Australia for testing.

The Tongan government has said that there are available facilities and ready to house and care for positive patients and also separate facilities for suspected patients. The medical leadership, experts, doctors, nurses and other official health agencies are standing by to handle the pandemic situation. On government direction, all schools are extended to end their daily program at 5 pm instead of 3.30 pm to advance covering of the required educational syllabus as proactive measure for any possible ad hoc school shut down.  The government is planning to declare  ‘state of emergency’ soon.

Tonga has reflected the national initiative and effort to protect its people and foreigners currently within the country regardless of its limited potential and capabilities. It has shown its effort to internationally coordinate and support the fight against this threat, and is learning from and copying international nations strategies to fight the threat. Tonga could not stand alone in its fight against the health threat without the international help, support and protection of powerful nations as shown by New Zealand and Australia, not forgetting the support from its neighboring island nations. Tonga is a very small nation, but is not panicking and is cautious to protect its existence. It fears that once the COVID-19 set it foot in Tonga it will take few days to affect the whole population.

The situation in Tonga highlights the vitality of powerful nations and their role in leading, joint planning, manage, support, provide, coordinate, monitor and effectively address the threat. Supporting other less capable nations should be a priority. The providence hands of many is a good medicine in itself, but it calls for good international leadership, coordination, management and implementation to be conducted in a cycle never ending process in order to fight the continuous emergence of health threats.

Malo Aupito

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