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Woman Who Flew To Tonga For A Weekend Still Stuck There 18 Months Later

Woman Who Flew To Tonga For A Weekend Still Stuck There 18 Months Later

Zoe Stephens, a British traveller, was vising the island nation of Tonga for a weekend back in March 2020... she's still there

Rebecca Shepherd

Rebecca Shepherd

When Zoe Stephens decided to take some time away from her life in China to travel she never expected to get stuck.

But thanks to coronavirus, the 27-year-old - who is originally from Crosby, Merseyside - has been stranded for the last 18 months.

Flickr/Sarah Kelemen Garber

Zoe flew into the South Pacific island nation of Tonga in March 2020 and has been there ever since as everywhere swiftly went into lockdown - it has remained closed off to foreign nationals ever since.

Luckily, the tiny archipelago that Zoe is stuck on has managed to remain Covid-free and she's never had to wear a face mask.

To keep busy, she has embarked upon a master's degree in international communications online and is house sitting for a family who are also stranded somewhere and unable to return due to travel restrictions.

Despite people thinking she's fortunate to be out there, and Zoe agreeing that she is 'lucky', it isn't as great as it may sound.

Speaking to CNN Travel, she said: "There's not many people that can relate to being stuck on an island without your friends or your family, in a country that you didn't deliberately end up in.

"Or being locked out of the country that you live in, and then not being able to get back. And being scared to go back to your home country because of a weird virus that's going around. So it's pretty isolating."

Flickr/Sarah Kelemen Garber

Back in March last year as the pandemic was ramping up, Zoe opted to continue travelling so that she could avoid the quarantine period if she went back to China.

Upon arriving into Tonga, she said: "But I got to the hostel and they were like, "we don't want to take you, you've just come from Fiji.'

"It took about a week before flights stopped coming in completely. We had a three-week lockdown, which was really, really intense. You could only leave your home once a week to go and get groceries and you had your car registration and name taken down.

"Everything in the entire country was closed. Shops, restaurants, everything apart from the odd one or two shops."

After settling down, Zoe has now come to terms with the fact that she wouldn't be able to go back to her life in China any time soon.

She added: "I've had to give up on that. I know that China won't open for a long time."

It's been reported that Zoe did have the opportunity to return to the UK but the few flights she could get on coincided with periods where Covid cases were particularly high.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Coronavirus