Tsunami-hit Tonga streets empty on first day of COVID lockdown


Feb 3 (Reuters) – The streets of tsunami-hit Tonga were empty and silent on Thursday on the first full day of a lockdown imposed in the previously coronavirus-free nation after two dock workers were diagnosed with COVID-19 .

“Normally this road would be queuing with vehicles and people, but as you can see all the shops are closed, everything is closed – taxi ranks, shops, supermarkets, it’s closed,” he said. said local journalist Marian Kupu as she stood at a deserted crossroads in the capital, shuttered buildings behind her.

“It’s a ghost town here in Nuku’alofa.”

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There were fears of an influx of international ships and planes delivering badly needed water, shelter and food after last month’s devastating volcanic eruption raised the risk of a pandemic outbreak in the nation isolated from the Pacific. Tonga had previously only recorded one case of COVID.

A general view shows damaged buildings and an ash-covered landscape following the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Kanokupolu, Tonga, January 23, 2022. Tonga Red Cross Society/Handout via REUTERS

However, the infected waterfront workers were not employed at the docks used by foreign navies to deliver aid, said Curtis Tu’ihalangingie, Tonga’s deputy chief of mission in Australia.

Australian Defense Force Joint Operations Chief Greg Bilton said samples from the dock workers would be sent to Australia for testing to verify the origin of the strain. Three more cases have been identified in a family, Tongan radio station BroadcomFM reported on Wednesday.

Tongans had lined up outside banks and gas stations on Wednesday ahead of the lockdown which started at 6 p.m. (0500 GMT).

“Tonga has been hit by two disasters,” said Fe’iloakitau Tevi, chief of staff at Tonga’s foreign ministry.

“One is of course the eruption and the second is the discovery of COVID-19 cases. There is a lockdown and I think that’s a good thing. We need to track and trace those who have been in contact with the first two cases of COVID.”

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Reporting by Stefica Nicol Bikes; Editing by Karishma Singh and Jane Wardell

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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