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Regional roundtable on safe re-opening of borders

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 5/08/2020

The safe reopening of entry points into six Pacific Islands countries amid the Covid-19 pandemic was discussed at an online meeting in Fiji this morning. The virtual roundtable is being convened by the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank with representatives from Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Fiji.

The Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet – Edgar Cocker who is one of Tonga’s representatives to the online meeting says, the meeting is important in regards to economic assistance from the UN and Asia Development Bank which will benefit small Pacific island countries like Tonga.

Joining from Tonga was the Chief Secretary along with the Health and Finance CEO’s.

Cocker says, discussions were centered on addressing border security. Also in discussion were safety measures that can be taken when borders are re-opened during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

The Chief Secretary adds, the online meeting is important for Tonga where the two organizers could assist economically in terms of costs of quarantine facilities also COVID-19 tests of repatriated passengers.

Edgar adds, the concern is because small island developing states, which depended largely on tourism for their economies, had been hit hard by the global slowdown due to the pandemic.

The UN and the ADB had emphasized at the meeting clear protocols and the importance of ensuring that the airlines, seafarers’ associations and tour operators were included in preparing plans for reopening borders.

Edgar says, support from the international community can include initiatives such as the training of customs, immigration, police and health officials and the distribution of personal protective equipment for use at airports and seaports.

The UN continues to advocate for the safe, responsible and timely reopening of national entry points, on which many small businesses and jobs depend and discussions are underway of when, how and with whom to open borders as this is a critical issue at the moment.

Similar roundtables are being planned for the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tokelau.

© Radio and Television Tonga News

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