THE Prime Minister today announced the lockdown will extended for another week, effective on Sunday, 5:00am March 27 until next Saturday April 2.

The lockdown is only for Tongatapu and Vava'u.

The Cabinet’s decision for the extension is due to an advisory from the Ministry of Health because of continued spike in the number of Covid cases.

Today, the Ministry of Health records a total of 4,872 cases with over 300 Covid new cases. The active cases now almost reaches 2,800 while more than 2000 patients have recovered.

The Hon. Prime Minister Hu’akavaliku said Cabinet believes this is a wise decision in efforts to curb the community transmission of the virus. It is also an opportunity to help the Ministry of Health (MOH) with contact tracing.

Meanwhile businesses including shops, gas stations, commercial banks and money transfer businesses will be reopened tomorrow from 5:00am to 8:00pm to allow people to resupply essential supplies enough for the one-week lockdown.

The Hon. Prime Minister also thanked the public who have provided home covid test and report to MOH. He says this is an important collaboration between people and the health authorities, a way forward where everyone takes responsible as protection of us, our family and Tonga from Covid.

Meanwhile the Hon. Minister of Health Dr. Saia Piukala says with people restocking essential supplies tomorrow, they are being advised to maintain the social distancing, wear a mask and avoid crowded places.

To date, according to Dr. Piukala the Ministry of Health has not recorded any severely ill patients that requireed ventilators at the hospital or ICU (Intensive Care Unit).

He also revealed that 55,000 booster doses have arrived in the Kingdom, thanks to the generation donation of the Australia government and UNICEF.

MOH plans to roll out the vaccination program soon in Ha’apai, Vava’u, Tongatapu and ‘Eua. Dr. Piukala said there are equipment needed such as syringes needed before the booster vaccination rolls out. He said there is a close collaboration with the Australian authorities on the matter and hopefully the much-needed equipment will be airlifted to Tonga this weekend.

The Hon. Health Minister also acknowledged the kind assistance of the Australian government for airlifting of the booster vaccines to Lulunga and the ‘Otumu’omu’a in Ha’apai.

The first dose vaccination rate has 98 percent, second dose rate is 90 percent and 47 percent for the booster vaccination. Dr. Piukala is hopeful with rolling out for completion of the booster vaccination throughout the Kingdom, Tonga will soon achieve a satisfactory rate of the booster shots.

In another development, MOH will launch a new COVID-19 mobile tracing App next Friday. The mobile phone App will be on trial next week before MOH launches it next Friday.

Dr. Piukala also urged the people to maintain the social distancing and always wear a mask in public places and to obey the Covid rules and health protocol to reduce transmission of the virus.

Lockdown curfew remains in force from 8:00am to 8:00pm.

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