Tonga goes into Covid-19 lockdown after recording first local cases weeks after volcanic eruption and tsunami
Tonga’s health minister Saia Piukala said on Tuesday the two men showed no Covid symptoms and were found following increasing testing of frontline workers at the port, Matangi Tonga reported.
The lockdown will start at 6 p.m. local time on Wednesday and will be reviewed every 48 hours, said the Prime Minister.
Efforts are ongoing to clear ash, debris and distribute aid to affected communities, the UN said.
Tongan authorities said they are investigating which ship the virus could have come from.
“The most important issue at the moment … is for us to slow down and stop those who have been affected,” said Sovaleni, according to Matangi Tonga.
He added that boats traveling between the country’s roughly 170 islands — of which 36 are inhabited — will be stopped in order to track and prevent any spread.
“No boat will be allowed to go from one island to another. No more airplane flights to Ha’apai, Vava’u, or for them to come here to Tongatapu,” Sovaleni said.
The local positive cases show the complexities of launching a full scale recovery operation while trying to avoid the compounding disaster of a Covid outbreak on Tonga.
The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano sent volcanic material surging as high as 40 kilometers (25 miles) into the atmosphere and generated tsunami waves up to 49 feet (15 meters) high that hit parts of the archipelago including the Pacific nation’s main island.
Tonga has fully vaccinated more than 80% of its eligible population against the virus, according to the World Health Organization.