Tonga’s main island in lockdown after first coronavirus case found

Tonga’s government says the isolated South Pacific nation's main island will go into lockdown for a week after it reported its first case of the coronavirus

Via AP news wire
Monday 01 November 2021 09:07
Virus Outbreak Tonga
Virus Outbreak Tonga

Tonga s main island will go into lockdown for a week after the South Pacific nation reported its first case of the coronavirus, the government said Monday.

The far-flung archipelago identified its first virus case last week, after a traveler arriving from New Zealand tested positive and isolated at a quarantine hotel.

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

The nation’s Cabinet ordered the move to “ensure the safety and health of our people,” news website Matangi Tonga reported.

The lockdown will mean schools, bars and restaurants will be closed, and nighttime curfews imposed. People will be required to isolate at home unless they are buying groceries or medicine, getting medical help, or accessing banking services.

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

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

Christchurch had been free from 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 had returned a negative test before leaving for Tonga.

Tonga is among the few remaining nations in the world that have avoided outbreaks of the virus due to its isolation.

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

Tonga's frontline workers — including health staff, police officers and airport staff — who were on duty when the plane arrived had also been put into quarantine.

Located northeast of New Zealand, Tonga is home to about 106,000 people.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in