Today, Tonga recorded its first ever Covid incident after a New Zealand passenger on a plane arrived with the virus.
The Pacific Ocean Island was one of few countries to have escaped the pandemic’s effects, partly because it closed its borders to almost all travelers.
There were concerns that Tonga’s under-resourced healthcare system might not be able to handle the virus if it ever became a problem.
Fiji, Tonga’s neighbor, managed to Avoid large Covid outbreaks before April this year.
Tonga, located nearly 1,500 miles from New Zealand. The island nation is home of about 106,000 people. It has now reported its first ever Covid instance after a passenger from New Zealand tested positive.
Tonga’s vaccination rate is far lower than that of New Zealand, Australia, and the UK. This means that most of the population is not protected from a possible Covid outbreak.
The Delta variant infected more than 50,000 people, and killed nearly 700.
There are now fears that the same could happen in Tonga. Officials are now deciding what actions to take to stop any potential spread.
TPohiva Tu’i’onetoa (onga’s Prime Minister) today announced that the traveler was one 215 passengers who had arrived on Wednesday on a flight departing from Christchurch, New Zealand.
The traveller was isolated at a quarantine hospital. There are no other details available about the infected individual.
According to Matangi Tonga, health officials plan to announce Monday any future lockdowns.
Christchurch was Covid-free for several months, until this week when four community cases were reported. This happened after a returning resident contracted the virus from Auckland, where it has been growing since August.
Officials in New Zealand confirmed that the Tonga traveller had been fully vaccinated before they left. They had received a second dose from Pfizer on 15 October.
They had previously returned a negative Covid testing result before they set off for Tonga. However, a Day 0 routine arrival test in the pacific nation was positive.
Officials from New Zealand said that they would work with their Tongan counterparts in order to confirm the case and provide further details in the coming days.
Tongan Health Ministry chief executive Dr Siale ´Akau´ola said it was unfortunate the plane had already left Christchurch before the news came of the community cases there, Matangi Tonga reported.
Dr ´Akau´ola said all frontline workers including health staff, police officers and airport staff who were on duty when the plane arrived had also gone into quarantine after the positive case was confirmed.
He said that all people working near the flight were vaccinated.
The outbreak was discovered one day after New Zealand announced it would allow one-way quarantine free travel from New Zealand to Tonga. Kiwis and double-jabbed travellers can skip quarantine restrictions beginning 8 November.
Tonga currently allows only nationals to return to the country via a weekly flight from New Zealand.
New Zealand has adopted a similar policy to Australia, restricting travel to returning nationals and following strict quarantine procedures.
It did reach an agreement with Australia earlier in the year to allow travel between both countries, but they still need to follow quarantine procedures. The 14-day quarantine will be reduced to one week by the 14th of November.
Tonga is located about 1,500 miles north-east of New Zealand and is home to approximately 106,000 people.
According to Our World in Data, only 31 percent of Tongans have been fully immunized. 41 percent have had at least one dose.
This is far less than the UK and New Zealand, which have fully vaccinated 63% and 67% of their eligible populations, respectively.