Panic in Tonga as tiny nation records first-ever Covid case

·2-min read

The island nation of Tonga has been exposed to its first ever case of coronavirus, causing panic to erupt in the nation's capital, Nuku'alofa.

The Australia High Commission in Tonga confirmed the case on Friday.

“No lockdown has been announced yet, but locals are encouraged to take precaution over the weekend until more information is provided next week,” it said.

World Health Organisation staff vaccinate a resident in Tonga.
A resident in Tonga receives a Covid jab. Source: World Health Organisation Western Pacific Region

It's believed the infected person was a traveller who arrived on a repatriation flight from Christchurch earlier this week.

Prime Minister Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa​ officially announced the case at a press conference on Friday.

People waiting in 'huge lines' to get vaccinated

A resident, who did not wish to be named, told Yahoo News Australia the positive case has sparked chaos across the main island.

"Shops were full this afternoon with people buying food, people filling up gas, it was like a crazy town, insane traffic and just panic,” she said.

"You have the people who don't believe in the vaccine... and then a Covid case comes and people panic.

"There's huge lines of people at the hospital right now waiting to get vaccinated."

The traveller had returned a negative test result before departing New Zealand and is fully vaccinated with a Pfizer vaccine. They remain in hotel quarantine after arriving on Wednesday.

All 215 passengers on board the flight were required to be fully vaccinated before entering Tonga and are spending three weeks in quarantine, Matangi Tonga reported.

Vehicles ply the streets of the capital Nuku'alofa in Tonga.
The Tongan capital of Nuku'alofa. Source: Getty Images (file pic)
People seen at Vaiola Hospital in Tonga.
Reisdents visit Vaiola Hospital on Friday as the news emerged. Source: Facebook/ Paongo F George

Tonga had been ramping up their vaccine program before the arrival of the virus with a vaccination schedule for schools. The health department has also run a campaign encouraging people to get vaccinated.

But only 31 per cent of residents are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.

Until today, Tonga was one of the last remaining countries in the world to have no known active cases of Covid-19.

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