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

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

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Tonga was one of the few countries not to have reported any cases of Covid since the start of the pandemic. But Tonga Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa on Friday 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, tested negative in New Zealand before the flight departed, and was discovered among travelers staying in a hotel used for isolation and quarantine of newcomers to the country.

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

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

Following the news of the positive case, thousands of people rushed to vaccination centers to be vaccinated against Covid, reported Matangi Tonga.

Tonga’s Health Minister ‘Amelia Tu’ipulotu said the high turnout over the past few days will increase the country’s immunization coverage.

“More people are coming forward because we now have about 86% first dose coverage and about 62% second dose coverage, so this is a major uptake today and it will increase the coverage. global coverage of early vaccines and full vaccines, ”Tu’ipulotu said, according to Matangi Tonga.

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

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

Like other Pacific island countries, Tonga’s early action has protected it from the Covid epidemics that could have devastated the country, where 22.1% of the population lives below the national poverty line and facilities and medical facilities are limited.
But the strict travel measures have severely affected the economies of Pacific island nations, especially those dependent on tourism.
The Pacific nations of Tuvalu and Naura are among the only countries in the world not to have reported Covid infection. Turkmenistan and North Korea have also officially reported no cases, although experts say those claims are unlikely to be true.

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