Tonga will enter Covid-19 lockdown after two men in Nuku‘alofa tested positive for Covid-19.

The Pacific nation of 100,000 has had just one suspected case since the pandemic started, but the need for foreign aid following the violent eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai Volcano on Jan. 14 has introduced the virus.

The two men work at Queen Salote Wharf in Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital, where foreign aid has been arriving via shipments from several naval vessels.

The country will go into a 48-hour lockdown on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

A P-3K2 Orion aircraft flies over an area of Tonga that shows the heavy ash fall from the recent volcanic eruption within the Tongan Islands. 5 Squadron crew work on board whilst flying overhead to provide vital information to send back to MFAT and various other government agencies.
An image taken from a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft shows the heavy ashfall from the recent volcanic eruption within the Tongan Islands. New Zealand Defence Force/2022

Border restrictions have been in place since March 2020 and Tonga’s national vaccination campaign has seen 83% of the eligible population inoculated.

Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni held an emergency press conference on Tuesday evening, announcing that all interisland shipping and transportation would be stopped, Matangi Tonga reported.

“We are looking at goods that were off loaded … the most important issue at the moment … is for us to slow down and stop those who have been affected,” Sovaleni said.

The eruption’s ash plume reached up to 60,000 feet across an area approximately 250 miles wide, covering the Tongan Islands in ash, damaging the country’s crops and cutting off its communication with the outside world. Three people were killed in the ensuing tsunami.

Clean-up efforts began soon after the event as the eruption coated the nation in a thick layer of ash.

Tonga’s Ministry of Fisheries has also raised concern over contamination of reef fish and mollusks, due to ashfall, and is urging Tongans to avoid consuming them until they had been tested in New Zealand.

Relief efforts began soon after the event, with Australia and New Zealand delivering aid via their naval forces. The U.S. has provided $2.6 million to non-government organizations and United Nations agencies.

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