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Tonga reports first case of Covid since start of pandemic | Coronavirus

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The island nation of Tonga reported its first case of Covid-19 after a traveler from New Zealand tested positive.

Tonga was among the few countries in the world to have avoided an outbreak of the virus. Like many of his neighbors, his isolation has helped keep him safe, but he faces great challenges if the virus takes hold given his underfunded healthcare system.

Neighboring Fiji avoided a major outbreak until April, when the Delta variant infected more than 50,000 people and killed at least 673 people.

Tonga Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa said in a radio speech that the traveler was among 215 passengers who arrived on a flight from Christchurch city on Wednesday and had isolated themselves at a hotel in quarantine.

He said he planned to make an announcement on any future lockdowns on Monday, according to the Matangi Tonga news site.

Christchurch had been free of the virus for months until this week, when four community cases were reported after a returning resident was infected in Auckland, where an outbreak has been developing since August.

New Zealand health officials said the traveler to Tonga had been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine and returned a negative test before leaving for Tonga. They said they would work with their Tongan counterparts to confirm the case and provide more details in the coming days.

Tonga’s Health Ministry CEO Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola said it was unfortunate that the plane had already left Christchurch before the reports of cases in the community, Matangi Tonga reported.

He said all frontline workers, including health workers, police and airport staff who were on duty when the plane arrived, had also been quarantined after the confirmation of the positive case.

Tonga is home to around 106,000 people, of whom about 31% are fully vaccinated and 48% have received at least one dose, according to research group Our World in Data.

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