COVID-19: Tonga faces lockdown after recording first case of coronavirus since start of the pandemic

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Tonga has recorded its first case of coronavirus nearly two years after the deadly pandemic broke out and swept across the globe.

The island nation of Tonga has detected its first-ever case of coronavirus after a traveller arriving from New Zealand tested positive.

According to New Zealand health officials, the traveller was fully vaccinated, and tested negative before leaving for Tonga.

The person arrived on a flight from the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Wednesday along with 215 other people, and has been isolating at a quarantine hotel, Tonga's Prime Minister Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa said in a radio address.

Some of the other people onboard the plane included members of Tonga's Olympic team, who had been unable to leave the city since the games were held in Japan in the summer.

Tonga's prime minister has now warned residents on the main island of Tongatapu that they could face a potential lockdown next week.

He added he delayed enforcing an immediate lockdown "because the virus will take more than three days to develop in someone who catches it before they become contagious".

Mr Tu'i'onetoa said: "We should use this time to get ready in case more people are confirmed they have the virus."

Siale Akau'ola, the chief executive of Tonga's health ministry, also explained the person who had become infected had received a second dose of the vaccine earlier this month.

Like many island nations in the region, Tonga's isolation has helped keep it safe from the virus but it faces big challenges should COVID take hold because of its under-resourced health system.

Only one third of citizens in Tonga have been vaccinated so far.

National immunisation coordinator Afu Tei told AFP news agency thousands had been turning up at vaccination centres to receive their jabs.

The Pacific Island nation, which is located northwest of New Zealand, has a population of over 100,000 people.

Tonga was among only a few other countries, including North Korea and Turkmenistan, yet to report any COVID cases.

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins University recently revealed more than 246 million COVID cases have been recorded around the world.

The data added there has been almost five million COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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