The Tiny Pacific Island Nation of Tonga Has Had No Covid, Until Now
(Bloomberg) -- For almost two years, the Kingdom of Tonga has watched on as Covid-19 spread to almost every corner of the world, except its own.
On Friday, that remarkable virus-free streak came to an end when Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’ionetoa said the country of some 100,000 people had found its first confirmed Covid case, local media reported.
The infection was in a passenger on a plane from Christchurch, New Zealand, about 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles) southwest of Tonga. The person is in mandatory hotel quarantine, but was among 215 people on the aircraft, website Matangi Tonga said. The government will decide whether to call a nationwide lockdown on Monday, given the potential exposure of other people on the plane.
Tonga is one of a few island nations in the South Pacific Ocean that have seen no Covid cases, with their relative isolation and limited international travel links proving an advantage as the pathogen spread around the world. The Cook Islands has also had no infections, despite its travel industry and close association with nearby New Zealand, which recently went back into lockdown after a months long virus-free stretch.
Other nations in the isolated region have seen significant virus outbreaks, however, with Papua New Guinea experiencing a significant recent wave that has challenged its limited healthcare system. Fiji, one of the South Pacific’s most popular tourist destinations, has also been hit, with more than 670 fatalities since the pandemic began.
Deaths from the virus globally are on track to soon top 5 million, with the tally at more than 4.98 million on Friday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News and Johns Hopkins University.
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