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British Government yet to approve request for evacuation of Tongan athletes from China

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 14/02/2020

The Acting Minister for Health this morning said that there is still no confirmation yet from the British government on the Tongan governments request for the Tongan sports teams in China to be allowed to enter the country. Poasi Tei says they had requested the 51 members of the Tongan sports teams in China be allowed to enter the UK and remain there for the 14 day quarantine period before they can return home, BUT this request has not yet been granted.

In an interview this morning, the acting health minister – Poasi Tei says they are still awaiting a response from the UK but it’s already been reported on social media as if it’s a certain.

Tei warned that the spread of misinformation on social media can cause serious problems particularly for those directly affected such as the immediate families of those still in China.

He cautioned the public to be wary about sharing false and misleading information online but also reaffirmed the governments best efforts are being taken to try and ensure the safe return of the sports teams.

Tei said if their request to the British government is granted, the sports teams will be flown out of China to London where they will be under the care of the Tongan High Commissioner to the UK for the 14 days quarantine period before they can return to Tonga through New Zealand, which the minister said have confirmed the Tongan sports teams can travel through New Zealand to Tonga after spending that quarantine period in London.

Although they are optimistic about the British government granting their request, Tei says they are also looking at other options in case the plans to travel to London do not work out.

The acting health minister also said government is looking to provide a bonus of one months’ worth allowance as monetary assistance to the Tongan students studying in China under the Chinese government scholarships.

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation has said coronavirus cases are not rising dramatically outside China despite a spike in Hubei province. Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies program, said outside China there had been two deaths and 447 cases in 24 countries.

© Radio and Television Tonga News