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Tonga Enters Lockdown – Expert Reaction

01 Nov 2021

The Kingdom of Tonga will enter a weeklong lockdown tonight following its first recorded Covid-19 case.

Only essential services will remain open. The case flew to Tonga from Christchurch last Wednesday, and tested positive the day after. The case had four contacts in New Zealand, all of whom have returned negative tests.

The SMC asked experts to comment.

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Immunologist, Associate Dean (Pacific), Head of University of Otago Wellington Pacific Office, and Senior Lecturer, Pathology & Molecular Medicine, University of Otago Wellington, comments:

“The Kingdom of Tonga has worked incredibly hard to protect its people and keep COVID-19 out of the country since the start of the global pandemic.

“The country has strong health leadership that will do everything that’s needed to keep the Tongan people safe – they will not take any chances.

“As expected, Tongatapu will move into lockdown restrictions as a precautionary measure which will begin at 12:01am Tuesday 2nd November 2021 and conclude 11:59pm Monday 8th October 2021.

“People will be required to isolate in their homes unless employed as an essential worker, purchasing essential items for their families, obtaining medical supplies, receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, attending to livestock – among other exceptions. All licensed business will be closed, with the exception of supermarkets, retail shops, online and homebased business that are given approval.

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“Night time curfews will apply from 8:00pm – 6:00am. Public transport will not operate and schools will shut. Funeral gatherings will be restricted to just 10 people indoors and 20 persons outdoors with an authorised officer in attendance. No alcohol sales are permitted – liquor licensed trading will remain closed.

“The source of the COVID-19 positive case that travelled to Tonga from Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand continues to mystify. The young person was fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine and had received their second dose on the 15th October, producing a negative pre-departure test result just prior to leaving Christchurch. They remain asymptomatic and in isolation in Tonga.

“The young individual was one of 215 passengers who travelled onboard a repatriation flight to Nuku’alofa, Tonga on 27th October 2021. All new arrivals to Tonga are required to stay in quarantine for 21 days. A COVID-19 test taken upon arrival returned a positive result on the Friday.

“Close contacts were identified in Aotearoa New Zealand, with two in Christchurch and Wellington – all four have tested negative for COVID-19 and are currently in isolation.

“The source of infection for the COVID-19 case in Tonga currently remains unknown as links have yet to be established with any of the community cases active in Christchurch – no links to any other known sources have been identified.

“Today, the Ministry of Health in Aotearoa New Zealand confirmed the virus had been identified in wastewater samples at two locations in Christchurch. Efforts to establish links are ongoing.”

No conflict of interest.

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