The sudden announcement of a nationwide Alert Level 4 lockdown last month put a halt to the journey back home for members of the Tongan Olympic team, who found themselves stranded in Christchurch.
Chef de Mission for the Tongan Olympic Team, Mr Amanaki Fakakovikaetau, says the arrival of the team for MIQ in Christchurch came in two waves. The first group completed their stay and were out of quarantine in time to fly to Auckland and back home to Tonga.
For the second group which includes Mr Fakakovikaetau, the nationwide lockdown was announced while they were still in quarantine.
“We were expecting to get out on 22 August to fly back to Auckland but it was announced that there’d be a lockdown in New Zealand, so our flights were cancelled.
There’s four of us here and we have to stay here in Christchurch until the conditions improve in Auckland.”
Along with Mr Fakakovikaetau is the Secretary General of the Tonga Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (TASANOC) Mr Takitoa Taumoepeau, Athletics Coach Mr Siueni Filimone and one of the athletes, Mr Ronald Fotofili, who is currently staying with some family in Christchurch.
Mr Fakakovikaetau was connected to Etu Pasifika, the largest Pacific health provider in Christchurch, through his family network who advised they could provide support during their enforced stay.
The three team members are currently staying in a home owned by friends of Mr Taumoepeau, while the team at Etu Pasifika are providing weekly food and welfare support.
“They shop for us, provide groceries and they always check how things are with us. When we arrived, it was very cold and so they assisted us by buying warm jackets and clothes.
We’re really appreciative of the assistance from Etu Pasifika to team Tonga and their help in getting us off our feet.”
Despite missing home, the three officials are doing well, says Mr Fakakovikaetau.
“Although we are stranded here, in spirit we are okay.”
General Manager for Etu Pasifika, Mr Amanaki Misa, says there was no hesitation to offer support.
“Being caught up in the lockdown like that can be quite devastating but we were able to serve them and alleviate some of the worries and concerns they had.
We even offered to vaccinate them but they confirmed they are all fully vaccinated as they did this before they headed to Japan. So they are setting a great example for our community”.