Wed, 25 Mar 2020
Timothy Gomm (right) was due to fly home last Friday
A WEST Berkshire medical student on a practical placement in Tonga has been left stranded after the island went into lockdown due to the coronavirus.
Timothy Gomm, from Mortimer, had been on the Pacific island for three weeks before his university – the University of Southampton – recalled all medical students around the world as they no longer deemed it safe.
The 23-year-old subsequently arranged a flight to New Zealand – and on to Singapore and then London – for last Friday.
However the day before he was due to fly, New Zealand closed its borders to non-natives in an effort to halt the spread of the virus.
Over the weekend the British Government negotiated with New Zealand to allow British nationals to transit through the country to return home – only for Singapore and then Tonga itself to close their borders.
The British Government also negotiated for British nationals to transit through Singapore, however that’s of no use to Mr Gomm who remains stuck in Tonga with no inbound flights.
Mr Gomm – who was due to be in the Polynesian archipelago for eight weeks – said: “For all intents and purposes we seem to go one step forward and then take five steps back.
“I’ve been writing to MPs, getting friends who aren’t trapped here to tweet people, using social media to get the story out.
“I got myself on to Tonga national news – an article was written about us.
“People are listening, but the promises by the British Government to get us home haven’t come to fruition.
“Every day we see tiny bits of hope form, but as of yet that hope hasn’t formed a plan for getting us home – but we’re still confident that we will get home.”
Although there are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Tonga, the country declared a state of emergency at the weekend.
Foreign nationals are now banned from entering the country, while all Tongan citizens and emergency officials arriving in the kingdom will now have to go through a 14-day quarantine period.
As Tonga gradually goes further and further into lockdown – with public gatherings restricted and schools set to close from tomorrow (Friday) – the situation becomes more urgent for Mr Gomm as temporary accommodation may be shut down.
The future doctor, who attended The Willink School in Burghfield, said: “No one knows what the lockdown here will look like.
“There are rumours that hotels and guest houses like the one I’m staying in might close, meaning there will be lots of people across the island with nowhere to stay.
“In the meantime, because our placement has been cancelled, we’re unsure if we’re covered by our insurance.
“There’s lots of questions that need to be answered like whether we’re allowed to go back into the hospital.
“It’s all a bit up in the air.”