2 Feb 2022

Three new Covid-19 cases in Tonga as Kingdom enters lockdown

6:26 pm on 2 February 2022

Three new covid-19 cases have been confirmed in Tonga bringing the total number to five.

In a press conference in Nuku'alofa this afternoon, Tonga's Prime Minister Hu'akavameiliku said that a woman and her two children had tested positive for the virus.

The latest transmission comes less than 24 hours after two men were confirmed to have contracted Covid-19 yesterday.

Siaosi Sovaleni

Siaosi Sovaleni Photo: RNZI/ Koro Vaka'uta

The two men were port workers and are currently now confined in isolation at Taliai Camp, a Tongan military base. The pair had been collecting emergency supplies from foreign aid ships arriving to Tonga and were among 50 frontline workers who had been tested for the virus.

The prime minister did not reveal which ships the men had collected supplies from, leaving the source of the transmissions open to speculation. Nuku'alofa harbour is reportedly full of supply ships laden with aid, including Australian Royal Navy boat HMAS Adelaide, which had confirmed before arriving to Tonga that 29 of its crew were in isolation aboard after testing positive for Covid-19.

The Speaker of the House, Lord Fakafanua

The Speaker of the House, Lord Fakafanua Photo: RNZ Pacific / Koro Vaka'uta

Tonga's Parliamentary Speaker, Lord Fakafanua, told RNZ Pacific today that it was not clear how the two men contracted the virus.

He said that the Covid-19 outbreak could not have happened at a worse time with Covid-19 restrictions interfering with much needed aid deliveries. The Kingdom is still in the early stages of recovery from the devastating Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcanic eruption and tsunami, that left hundreds of Tongans homeless and properties damaged last month.

"The prime minister has reassured me this morning that the aid that is currently being distributed in Tonga will continue, the work that his majesty's armed forces is doing on the ground will continue under the lockdown because they are an essential service," Lord Fakafanua said.

The country is polluted with volcanic ash that has fouled water supplies and carpeted the land with dust.

Two weeks after the disaster, telecommunications are yet to be re-established in most of Tonga, with no outsiders being able to make mobile or phone calls into the Vava'u and Ha'apai group of islands.

Lord Fakafanua also stated that there are worries about a potential Covid-19 outbreak in Vava'u, as a close contact of one of the new Covid-19 cases in Tonga had visited Vava'u over the week.

The government has stepped up contact tracing measures in order to ring fence community transmission of Covid-19.

Lockdown rules in Tonga will require everyone to remain at home, to practice social distancing, and to wear face masks in public. Essential workers are exempted from restrictions of movement, such as Red Cross and aid distribution personnel, who would be allowed to operate freely.

Tongan health workers promoting the Covid-19 vaccination drive.

Photo: Supplied/ Tongan Ministry of Health

According to Tonga's Ministry of health, more than 83 percent of the population of the eligible population (over the age of 12) have been fully vaccinated. Exactly 73,938 people (over the age of 12) having been vaccinated at least once, representing 96 percent of those eligible for testing.

The Tongan Government stated at last night's press conference that the lockdown would be re-accessed in 48 hours after its enforcement.

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