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Tonga Detects First Covid-19 Cases, Ending 2-Year Run

Authorities had reported only one imported case but the eruption of a volcano last month, which triggered a tsunami, put that record at risk

HMAS Adelaide docks at Nuku’alofa to deliver aid. Photo: AFP


The Pacific island nation of Tonga has ended its more than two-year run of being free of Covid-19 and will be locked down from Wednesday night after two positive cases were detected.

Authorities have reported only one imported case of the virus but the eruption of the Hunga Tonga Ha’apai volcano last month, which triggered a tsunami, put that record at risk.

Defence personnel and nongovernment organisation staff from countries with higher rates of infection entered Tonga to deliver food, fresh water, medicine and other aid.

Two cases have now been detected at Tonga’s main port in Nuku’alofa. They represent the first cases of community transmission in the country.

The government has yet to determine how the virus entered the country.

Siaosi Sovaleni, Tonga’s prime minister, said the two cases were “frontline” workers who arrived by ship. He said they tested positive, but were asymptomatic and now in isolation, according to the Matangi news website.

Movement of their families had been restricted, he added.

“We have not yet identified the ship because a number of ships had arrived, and we have not been able to identify which.
“The requirement, of course, that they have to be tested negative before they are allowed in,” he added.

Sovaleni said the country would be locked down from Wednesday night as the government tracks whether the coronavirus has spread beyond the port.

There has been a Covid-19 outbreak on the Australian aid ship HMAS Adelaide, with the number of infected people on board rising over the past week.


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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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