Panic, lockdown and a rush to vaccinate in Tonga as first Covid case recorded | Tonga


Early on Monday morning, the usually quiet capital of the Pacific nation of Tonga, Nuku’alofa metropolis, was filled with automobiles.

There had been lengthy queues outdoors vaccination centres, as properly as banks, Western Union shops and retailers as individuals rushed to put together for the tiny nation’s first correct lockdown.

It got here 4 days after the Kingdom of Tonga recorded its first ever Covid case.

The nation of roughly 100,000 individuals 2,000km east of Australia, has made it by practically two years of the pandemic Covid-free, largely by protecting its borders closed to worldwide arrivals.

But after a repatriation flight from New Zealand final Wednesday introduced in the first case – a younger Tongan missionary coming back from Australia on mission work with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – Tonga is bracing for the worst.


The case has despatched individuals scrambling.

The authorities confirmed on Monday that the variety of those that had been totally vaccinated had jumped from round 35% earlier than the first case was confirmed to 62% by Monday, as individuals who had acquired their first dose however not returned for his or her second jab rushed to get vaccinated. Eighty-eight per cent of individuals had had their first dose.

“There is definitely more urgency now to be vaccinated,” stated Dr ʻAmelia Afuhaʻamango Tuʻipulotu, the well being minister.

People queued outside banks and shops on Monday in the capital of Nuku’alofa as they anticipated the government’s announcement of a lockdown.
People queued outdoors banks and retailers on Monday in the capital of Nuku’alofa as they anticipated the federal government’s announcement of a lockdown. Photograph: Leki Lao/The Guardian

The authorities introduced a seven-day lockdown to cowl Tongatapu, the primary island, with restrictions that may cease public gatherings, cease work aside from important companies and preserve individuals at dwelling.

But many frightened individuals put themselves into lockdown properly forward of the federal government’s announcement.

“My husband and I decided to get the two daughters [aged 14 and 15] vaccinated ASAP rather than wait for their scheduled school one. We also made a decision to go into voluntary lockdown immediately,” stated Ofa Gutteinbeil Likiliki, who works as the director of the Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) in Nuku’alofa.

“I thought about my son who has asthma and wanted to get him out of school ASAP and my daughters who were at school. Only one had been vaccinated at that time, I wanted to get them out of school.

“I was also shocked that government took some time to announce what was happening, especially after so much had been leaked on social media… [and] that they didn’t make a decision to lockdown immediately after, especially after what we have seen happen in other counties such as Fiji and New Zealand, who are closer to home.”

“I decided that the lockdown announced by government can come later, I’m locking down my family on Friday and I would urge people to lockdown at home, wear your masks and be safe,” stated Ramanlal Vallabh, who’s the president of the Media Association of Tonga.

“I was worried because we have the first case of Covid-19 in Tonga and after having seen and witnessed what it has done in places like Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and the United States of America.”

Meanwhile, greater than 200 individuals who had been onboard the flight with the contaminated passenger, as properly as all of the airport employees who had been working when the airplane got here in, and well being employees, are in government-managed quarantine.

Masks, which have not been a common sight in Tonga, were commonplace after the first case was announced on Friday.
Masks, which haven’t been a frequent sight in Tonga, had been commonplace after the first case was introduced on Friday. Photograph: Leki Lao/The Guardian

“When we found out we acted straight away and carried out the work we needed to do. The positive case was isolated and others have been monitored closely,” stated Tuʻipulotu, the well being minister.

“I just spoke with our doctor, sister in charge and our first Covid-19 case. They are courageous, caring, humble and respectful. They are doing their outmost best for our first case and all passengers,” Tuʻipulotu stated.

“I also spoke to our first case and shared my love and compassion to him and his family.”

Announcing the case on Friday, Prime Minister Hon Dr Rev Pohiva Tuioneto’a stated: “We ask that you do not panic nor be afraid but that you stand together with us to carry out the duties given us. We pledge to do our best to continuously share correct and reliable information regarding the response.”

The prime minister additionally requested individuals not to disseminate mistaken info “that is untrue and misleading, as this will affect the trust and support needed for this important work”.

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