Tonga's Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday, March 4, that all travelers from China, Italy, Iran, and Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea will need to self-quarantine for 14 days in a country free from coronavirus (COVID-19). All foreign travelers will also be required to complete a health declaration form on arrival into Tonga. Travelers from the aforementioned countries will also need medical clearance from the last port of entry to confirm that they are free from respiratory illness before entering Tonga.
The Minister of Health also announced on March 4 that all international flights and vessels entering Tonga will use Tongatapu as the first port of entry for border screening, before continuing any travel to outer islands.
While no cases of the virus have been confirmed in Tonga, the country has raised its alert level from high to very high (highest level) to prevent the spread of the virus. Further international spread of the virus is expected in the coming weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 28, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the risk of spread and the risk of impact of the virus is "very high" at the global level.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, anticipate transportation disruptions, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider.
In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, individuals are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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