Covid outbreak on crucial Australian aid ship bound for tsunami-battered Tonga

Covid outbreak on Australian vessel has raised fears of outbreak among vulnerable people on Covid-free island

Shweta Sharma
Tuesday 25 January 2022 12:04
<p>Royal Australian Navy HMAS Adelaide ship heading to Tonga to provide emergency disaster relief</p>

Royal Australian Navy HMAS Adelaide ship heading to Tonga to provide emergency disaster relief

At least 23 crew members onboard a crucial Australian aid ship which was bound to Tsunami-battered Tonga have tested positive for Covid-19.

The Covid outbreak on the HMAS Adelaide has raised fears of outbreak of coronavirus to already marooned Tonga island that has so far managed to avoid any outbreaks.

The Australian military ship left from Bribane on Friday to deliver the Australian government-promised relief material to Tonga after the South Pacific island nation was hit by tsunami following a devastating underwater volcanic eruption about two weeks ago.

Australia defence minister Peter Dutton promised to keep the ship would not put the 105,000 Tongan population "at risk".

The Australian Department of Defence said the HMAS Adelaide would continue its voyage as planned and scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.

The statement added that the crew onboard will make sure all the supplies were delivered in a "Covid-safe manner."

The outbreak on the ship appears to be confirming Tongan authorities worst fears as they remain wary of accepting international aid that could usher in a bigger disaster of coronavirus.

A car covered with ash is seen outside a house following volcanic eruption and Tsunami in Tongatapu, Tonga, on 16 January

Tonga has reported just a single case of coronavirus since the pandemic began in 2020 and continued to avoid any outbreaks.

The virus free island has about 61 per cent Tongans fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.

This was the second shipment of aid from Australia that was hit with coronavirus before reaching the island. A C-17 Globemaster military transport plane had to be turned around mid-flight last week after a crew member caught the virus.

HMAS Adelaide ship heading to Tonga to provide emergency disaster relief

However, Australia has managed to dispatch military transport planes carrying relief supplies. But the HMAS Adelaide vessel is loaded with a larger shipment of aid, including engineering equipment, water and shelter.

The vessel has more than 600 crew members onboard but it is equipped with medical facilities, including a 40-bed hospital and an ICU, said the Department of Defence.

Tonga was cut off from rest of the world after underwater volcanic eruption severed the undersea fibre-optic cable which connects the island nation to rest of the world.

Aereal view of cleaning crews working to remove oil from a beach annexed to the summer resort town of Ancon, northern Lima

The eruption near Tonga sent volcanic material surging in the atmosphere upto 40kms high and triggered tsunami waves up to 49 feet high in parts of archipelago including the Pacific nation’s main island.

Nasa has estimated in new findings that the 15 January eruption was hundreds of times more powerful that the WWII atomic bombs.

Officials say the disaster killed at least three people and affected  four-fifths of the population.

As rescue efforts continue, a cable company company official said Tonga’s main island may have its internet service restored within two weeks. However it might take much longer to report connection to smaller islands.

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