Tonga’s first Covid-19 case ‘was brought into the country by Mormon missionary who had spent several weeks in New Zealand’
- A youth Mormon had been on mission in Africa before stopping in New Zealand
- He was double vaccinated and tested negative before boarding flight to Tonga
- The single infection has plunged the island nation into a week-long lockdown
Tonga’s first ever case of Covid-19 was brought into the country by a Mormon missionary who had returned from Africa via New Zealand, local reports claim.
The Polynesian country’s main island Tongatapu was plunged into lockdown this week after registering its first infection throughout the entire pandemic.
The archipelago’s remote location in the Pacific Ocean had made it one of the only remaining places in the world yet to record a case of the virus.
Tonga’s first ever case of Covid-19 was brought into the country by a Mormon missionary who had returned from Africa via New Zealand
Tonga’s main island went into lockdown for a week after the South Pacific nation reported its first case of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic
But that came to an end last week after a traveller tested positive and was forced to isolate at a quarantine hotel.
The youth missionary with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been on mission in Africa and spent several weeks in New Zealand before returning to Tonga, Civil Beat reported.
He was among 215 passengers on a repatriation flight from Christchurch and had been double vaccinated with the Pfizer jab, had no symptoms and recorded two negative tests before the flight.
Christchurch had been free from the virus for months until last week, when several community cases were reported.
Upon landing, he had a ‘weak positive’ result and two further tests also came out positive.
The archipelago’s remote location in the Pacific Ocean had made it one of the only remaining places in the world yet to record a Covid case
He was the only passenger on the flight to have recorded a positive test so far but the others have to remain in quarantine for 21 days and continue to be tested.
Tonga has one of the highest percentages of Mormons of any country in the world, with 66,000 members out of a country of just over 100,000, according to the Church of the Latter Day Saints.
The first Mormon mission to Tonga took place in 1891 and numbers have steadily grown, similar to other Polynesian island nations such as Samoa, the Cook Islands and Fiji.
Its lockdown sparked by the arrival of the missionary began just after midnight on Tuesday and applies only to the island of Tongatapu, where 70 per cent of the population live.
The nation’s Cabinet ordered the move to ‘ensure the safety and health of our people,’ news website Matangi Tonga reported.
People will be required to isolate at home unless they are buying groceries or medicine, getting medical help, or accessing banking services (file image)
The lockdown means schools, bars and restaurants are closed, and nighttime curfews imposed.
People are required to isolate at home unless they are buying groceries or medicine, getting medical help, or accessing banking services.
News of the case prompted hundreds of Tongans to line up at vaccination sites around the country.
About 35 per cent of Tongans are fully vaccinated and 51 per cent have had at least one dose, according to research group Our World in Data.
Tonga was among the few remaining nations in the world that have avoided outbreaks of the virus due to its isolation.
The nearby nation of Fiji avoided significant outbreaks until April, when the delta variant ripped through the island chain, infecting more than 50,000 people and killing at least 673.
Tonga’s frontline workers – including health staff, police officers and airport staff – who were on duty when the plane arrived have also been put into quarantine.
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