Tonga prepares for possible lockdown after first case of Covid-19 – Community News

Tonga prepares for possible lockdown after first case of Covid-19

Tonga was one of the few countries that had not reported a single case of Covid since the start of the pandemic. But on Friday, Tonga’s Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa confirmed his first positive case of a passenger who had traveled from New Zealand.

The infected traveler arrived in Tonga on Wednesday after flying from Christchurch, according to the New Zealand Ministry of Health.

The passenger was fully vaccinated, had tested negative in New Zealand prior to flight departure and was discovered among travelers staying at a hotel used for controlled isolation and quarantine for new arrivals to the country.

Tu’i’onetoa said all airport personnel who had contact with one of the passengers on the flight have been quarantined and warned Tongans to prepare for a possible national lockdown following the case, according to news website Matangi Tonga.

“We should use this time to prepare in case more people are confirmed to have the virus,” he reportedly said.

After news of the positive case, thousands of people rushed to vaccination centers to get their Covid injections, Matangi Tonga reported.

Tonga’s health minister ‘Amelia TuÊ»ipulotu said the high turnout in recent days will boost the country’s vaccination coverage.

She flew to Tonga for a weekend.  18 months later she's still stuck there
“More people are coming forward because now we have coverage of the first dose of about 86% and a second dose of about 62%, so this is a big turnout today and will increase the overall coverage of the first and fully vaccinated, TuÊ»ipulotu said, according to Matangi Tonga.

Tonga is a Polynesian country with more than 170 islands in the South Pacific and home to approximately 100,000 people. The archipelago is located about 800 kilometers (497 miles) east of Fiji and 2,380 kilometers (1,480 miles) from New Zealand.

Although it has not reported a Covid case so far, the island nation declared a state of emergency in March 2020 and closed its borders to foreigners.

Like other Pacific island nations, Tonga’s early action protected it from Covid outbreaks that could have devastated the country, where 22.1% of the population lives below the national poverty line and medical facilities and equipment are limited.
But the strict travel restrictions have had serious consequences for the economies of island nations in the Pacific, especially those that rely on tourism.
The Pacific countries of Tuvalu and Nauru are among the only countries in the world not to report Covid infection. Turkmenistan and North Korea have also not officially reported any cases, though experts say those claims are likely untrue.