Tonga goes into lockdown; COVID cases not at international aid port

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As Tonga goes into lockdown on Wednesday to curb the spread of COVID, officials have confirmed that the two new cases that were detected in the Pacific nation were not at the international aid port.

The two workers, who tested positive, were not working at the wharf used by foreign naval ships delivering aid.

Tonga's deputy head of mission in Australia, Curtis Tu'ihalangingie, told Reuters the two cases were detected at a different wharf and "not the one that the HMAS Adelaide used".

"The wharf that had the case is a different one used for commercial cargoes," he said.

The delivery of aid would not change as a result of the COVID cases, he said, adding, "frontliners will need to be more careful".

This would mean international ships and planes will continue to deliver water, shelter and food to the nation as it recovers from the impact of a devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami. 

The Tongan government has insisted on contactless delivery of aid, and all pallets unloaded from aircraft or ships are isolated for 72 hours before being distributed by the local emergency service.

Tongan radio station BroadcomFM reported on Wednesday another three cases had been detected in a family, bringing total case numbers to five.

Last week, Australian navy ship, HMAS Adelaide, which had docked at Vuna wharf and offloaded 250 pallets of aid to a quarantine zone later reported 23 COVID cases onboard.

More aid is headed towards Tonga, three New Zealand and one British naval ships, and two Chinese fishing ships from Fiji have come into port and unloaded aid pallets. French, Japanese and Chinese navy ships are also enroute carrying aid.

Meanwhile, Tongans queued at shops and banks on Wednesday ahead of a lockdown to start at 6:00 pm, as authorities attempt to stop the spread of COVID.

Health authorities were administering booster shots to the public on Wednesday, with more vaccine booster doses to arrive from Australia and New Zealand. Around 83 per cent of the eligible population have received two doses of vaccine.

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