Tonga reports its first COVID-19 case from plane traveler

WELLINGTON (New Zealand) -- Tonga reported Friday its first ever case of COVID-19, after a New Zealander tested positive.

Tonga reports its first COVID-19 case from plane traveler

WELLINGTON (New Zealand) -- Tonga reported Friday its first ever case of COVID-19, after a New Zealander tested positive.

Tonga is one of few countries that has not been affected by the virus. Tonga, like many of its neighbors has been protected by its isolation. However, the under-resourced health system could make it vulnerable to the virus.

Fiji, a nearby country, was spared major outbreaks until April when the delta virus infected more than 50,000 people, and killed at least 673.

Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa, Tonga's Prime Minster, stated in a radio speech that the traveler was one of 215 passengers who arrived from Christchurch, New Zealand on Wednesday. He had been quarantined at a quarantine hospital.

According to Matangi Tonga, the prime minister was expected to announce Monday any future lockdowns.

Christchurch was immune to the virus for many months, until this week when four cases of the virus were reported by the community. The virus was contracted by a returning resident while in Auckland, which has seen an increase in the number of cases since August.

Officials in New Zealand confirmed that the Tonga traveler had been fully vaccinated with Pfizer before departing for Tonga. They said that they were working with their Tongan counterparts in order to confirm the situation and provide more information over the next few days.

Chief executive of Tongan Health Ministry Dr. Siale Akau'ola stated that it was regrettable the plane had already left Christchurch prior to the announcement about the community cases, Matangi Tonga reported.

After the positive confirmation, 'Akau’ola stated that all frontline staff including airport staff and police officers were placed into quarantine. He said that everyone working around the flight was vaccinated.

Tonga, located northeast of New Zealand is home to approximately 106,000 people. According to Our World in Data, 31% of Tongans have been fully vaccinated. 48% have received at least one dose.

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