“I’m probably one of the few people in the world who has never had to wear a mask.” A 27-year-old British woman who traveled to Tonga the weekend of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is still there 18 months later.
Zoe Stephens was living in China when the coronavirus pandemic set in, but traveled to Tonga to avoid the virus.
A British woman who traveled to Tonga at the start of the pandemic is still there 18 months later
She intended to stay for a weekend, but has now been stuck in the country for a year and a half, which is one of the few places that has never experienced COVID-19, CNN Travel reports .
“I’m probably one of the few people in the world who has never had to wear a mask,” Stephens told CNN Travel.
While living on a coronavirus-free island may sound like a dream, Stephens told CNN Travel that it has been difficult to be isolated without friends or family for so long and unable to leave her country.
She ended up in Tonga via South Korea, a country she visited when COVID-19 cases began to increase in China.
Rather than return to China and face quarantine laws, Stephens kept traveling. After a stopover in Fiji, he arrived in Tonga, where he was informed that some of the first cases had just occurred in Fiji.
Stephens faced a three-week blockade shortly after his arrival in Tonga, which he described as “very, very intense.”
The archipelago declared a state of emergency in March 2020 and has been closed to foreigners ever since, according to the Tongan State Department .
During his first six months in Tonga, Stephen held out hope of returning to China, and even missed the opportunity to return home to the UK, according to CNN Travel.
Once he realized that China was not in his immediate future, he decided to settle in Tonga.
As he told CNN Travel, he lives in a beach house belonging to another family who cannot return to Tonga due to travel restrictions. Stephen even started a program to earn a master’s degree in international communications online.