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Tonga reports its first coronavirus case

Al Jazeera 29/10/2021

The nation island of Tonga has reported its first coronavirus infection since the beginning of the pandemic after a passenger travelling from New Zealand tested positive.

In a radio address on Friday, Tonga’s Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa confirmed that there was one COVID-19 case among 215 passengers who arrived from the city of Christchurch, local media reported.

File: Coronavirus Photo: Stefan Sauer/dpa (Photo by Stefan Sauer/picture alliance via Getty Images) © Copyright 2021, dpa (www.dpa.de). Alle Rechte vorbehalten File: Coronavirus Photo: Stefan Sauer/dpa (Photo by Stefan Sauer/picture alliance via Getty Images)  

Located northeast of New Zealand, Tonga is home to about 106,000 people. About 31 percent of Tongans are fully vaccinated and 48 percent have had at least one dose, according to research group Our World in Data.

The island is among the few remaining nations in the world that have avoided outbreaks of COVID-19. Like many of its neighbours, Tonga’s isolation has helped keep it safe but it faces big challenges should the virus take hold due to its under-resourced health system.

The nearby nation of Fiji avoided significant outbreaks until April, when the Delta variant of the coronavirus ripped through the island chain, infecting more than 50,000 people and killing at least 673.

Tu’i’onetoa said the government was planning to make an announcement on Monday on whether a national lockdown will be imposed, Matangitonga news reported.

Meanwhile, the prime minister demanded all Tongans abide by physical distancing and to follow coronavirus-related regulations.

The health ministry’s chief executive Siale ‘Akau’ola also said that health workers, police and the entire staff working at the Fua’amotu airport when the Christchurch flight arrived were placed under quarantine. He added that all those working near the flight had been vaccinated.

Passengers of the flight included seasonal workers and members of Tonga’s Olympic team.

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