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

11 months ago 108

Early connected Monday morning, the usually quiescent superior of the Pacific state of Tonga, Nuku’alofa city, was packed with cars.

There were agelong queues extracurricular vaccination centres, arsenic good arsenic banks, Western Union outlets and shops arsenic radical rushed to hole for the tiny nation’s archetypal due lockdown.

It came 4 days aft the Kingdom of Tonga recorded its archetypal ever Covid case.

The state of astir 100,000 radical 2,000km eastbound of Australia, has made it done astir 2 years of the pandemic Covid-free, mostly by keeping its borders closed to planetary arrivals.

But aft a repatriation formation from New Zealand past Wednesday brought successful the archetypal lawsuit – a young Tongan missionary returning from Australia connected ngo enactment with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – Tonga is bracing for the worst.

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The lawsuit has sent radical scrambling.

The authorities confirmed connected Monday that the fig of those who were afloat vaccinated had jumped from astir 35% earlier the archetypal lawsuit was confirmed to 62% by Monday, arsenic radical who had received their archetypal dose but not returned for their 2nd jab rushed to get vaccinated. Eighty-eight per cent of radical had had their archetypal dose.

“There is decidedly much urgency present to beryllium vaccinated,” said Dr ʻAmelia Afuhaʻamango Tuʻipulotu, the wellness minister.

People queued extracurricular  banks and shops connected  Monday successful  the superior  of Nuku’alofa arsenic  they anticipated the government’s announcement of a lockdown.
People queued extracurricular banks and shops connected Monday successful the superior of Nuku’alofa arsenic they anticipated the government’s announcement of a lockdown. Photograph: Leki Lao/The Guardian

The authorities announced a seven-day lockdown to screen Tongatapu, the main island, with restrictions that volition halt nationalist gatherings, halt enactment but for indispensable services and support radical astatine home.

But galore frightened radical enactment themselves into lockdown good up of the government’s announcement.

“My hubby and I decided to get the 2 daughters [aged 14 and 15] vaccinated ASAP alternatively than hold for their scheduled schoolhouse one. We besides made a determination to spell into voluntary lockdown immediately,” said Ofa Gutteinbeil Likiliki, who works arsenic the manager of the Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) successful Nuku’alofa.

“I thought astir my lad who has asthma and wanted to get him retired of schoolhouse ASAP and my daughters who were astatine school. Only 1 had been vaccinated astatine that time, I wanted to get them retired of school.

“I was besides shocked that authorities took immoderate clip to denote what was happening, particularly aft truthful overmuch had been leaked connected societal media… [and] that they didn’t marque a determination to lockdown instantly after, particularly aft what we person seen hap successful other counties specified arsenic Fiji and New Zealand, who are person to home.”

“I decided that the lockdown announced by authorities tin travel later, I’m locking down my household connected Friday and I would impulse radical to lockdown astatine home, deterioration your masks and beryllium safe,” said Ramanlal Vallabh, who is the president of the Media Association of Tonga.

“I was disquieted due to the fact that we person the archetypal lawsuit of Covid-19 successful Tonga and aft having seen and witnessed what it has done successful places similar Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and the United States of America.”

Meanwhile, much than 200 radical who were onboard the formation with the infected passenger, arsenic good arsenic each the airdrome unit who were moving erstwhile the level came in, and wellness staff, are successful government-managed quarantine.

Masks, which person  not been a communal  show   successful  Tonga, were commonplace aft  the archetypal  lawsuit  was announced connected  Friday.
Masks, which person not been a communal show successful Tonga, were commonplace aft the archetypal lawsuit was announced connected Friday. Photograph: Leki Lao/The Guardian

“When we recovered retired we acted consecutive distant and carried retired the enactment we needed to do. The affirmative lawsuit was isolated and others person been monitored closely,” said Tuʻipulotu, the wellness minister.

“I conscionable spoke with our doctor, sister successful complaint and our archetypal Covid-19 case. They are courageous, caring, humble and respectful. They are doing their outmost champion for our archetypal lawsuit and each passengers,” Tuʻipulotu said.

“I besides spoke to our archetypal lawsuit and shared my emotion and compassion to him and his family.”

Announcing the lawsuit connected Friday, Prime Minister Hon Dr Rev Pohiva Tuioneto’a said: “We inquire that you bash not panic nor beryllium acrophobic but that you basal unneurotic with america to transportation retired the duties fixed us. We pledge to bash our champion to continuously stock close and reliable accusation regarding the response.”

The premier curate besides asked radical not to disseminate incorrect accusation “that is untrue and misleading, arsenic this volition impact the spot and enactment needed for this important work”.