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Tonga’s main island locks down after first case of virus discovered

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Tonga’s main island locks down after first case of virus discovered

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Tonga government has said the main island in the isolated South Pacific nation will be stranded for a week after reporting its first case of the coronavirus

The distant archipelago identified its first case of the virus last week, after a traveler arriving from New Zealand tested positive and isolated in a quarantine hotel.

Tonga Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa said the lockdown would begin just after midnight on Tuesday and would only apply to Tongatapu Island, where the majority of the population lives.

The lockdown will mean the closure of schools, bars and restaurants and imposed nighttime curfews. People will be required to self-isolate at home unless they buy groceries or drugs, get medical help, or access banking services.

News of the case prompted hundreds of Tongans to queue at vaccination sites across the country. About 31% of Tongans are fully vaccinated and 48% have received at least one dose, according to the Our World in Data research group.

The infected traveler was among 215 passengers who arrived on a flight from Christchurch on Wednesday.

Christchurch had been free of the virus for months until last week, when several community cases were reported.

New Zealand health officials said the traveler to Tonga was fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine and returned a negative test before leaving for Tonga.

Tonga is among the few countries in the world to have avoided epidemics of the virus due to their isolation.

The neighboring nation of Fiji avoided major outbreaks until April, when the delta variant crossed the island chain, infecting more than 50,000 people and killing at least 673 people.

Tonga’s frontline workers – including health workers, police and airport staff – who were on duty when the plane arrived had also been quarantined.

Located in northeastern New Zealand, Tonga is home to around 106,000 people.

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