The Kingdom of Tonga has entered into lockdown following several positive cases of COVID-19. The Pacific country, which had remained COVID-free throughout the pandemic, was already trying to recover from the recent powerful volcanic eruption and the subsequent tsunami that killed three people and damaged infrastructure, plus an unrelated earthquake.
Since the events of a few weeks ago, Tonga has been reliant on foreign aid, though there was early concern this may bring COVID-19 to the islands. Given that Tonga has escaped COVID for most of the pandemic due to strict border controls, measures to limit interactions between aid workers coming in and the local population were put in place. However, now there have been four active cases of COVID-19 reported in the capital city Nuku'alofa.
It Is unclear where the disease comes from as France, Fiji, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and China have all sent aid via ships. There was a COVID outbreak on one of the Australian relief ships but the Tongan government doesn’t believe it is linked to that vessel as the unloading was done in a contact-less approach.
The population of the Kingdom of Tonga is about 106,000 individuals across 36 of the 169 islands, and it has so far administered at least 137,609 doses of vaccines. It's estimated that roughly 70 percent of its population has been vaccinated. The main concern for the outbreak is that certain island communities have limited health care resources, which leaves them vulnerable.
In an effort tot limit the spread, no boats or domestic planes are will allowed to travel between islands.
In a national address on Tuesday, Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni confirmed the COVID cases and said Tonga would enter lockdown from 6pm local time Wednesday, and the situation would be reviewed every 48 hours, reports BBC News.