COVID-free Tonga cautiously receives support from ship with virus outbreak

Nuku’alofa, Tonga — A coronavirus-hit Australian warship docked in Tonga on Wednesday, delivering desperately wanted support to the volcano-and-tsunami-struck nation underneath strict “no-contact” protocols. Tongan Well being Minister Saia Piukala mentioned the crew of the HMAS Adelaide would observe drastic well being protocols to make sure the distant Pacific kingdom stays one of many few locations on this planet nonetheless freed from COVID-19.

“The ship will berth and no contacts will probably be made. Australians from the ship will unload their cargoes and sail from port,” he informed reporters.

The Adelaide was deployed as a part of a world support effort after the January 15 eruption that generated large tsunami waves and blanketed the island nation in poisonous ash.

The warship is carrying about 80 tons of reduction provides, together with water, medical kits and engineering tools.

Australian Defence Force Support to Tonga
Division of International Affairs and Commerce Disaster Response Crew Liaison Officer, Timothy Church, checks the pallets of humanitarian support provides embarked onboard HMAS Adelaide because the ship sails to assist the nation of Tonga, January 20, 2022.

Australian Division of Defence/Handout/REUTERS

Regardless of all crew members testing unfavourable earlier than departing Brisbane, officers in Canberra on Tuesday mentioned 23 coronavirus instances had been detected on the vessel. Piukala mentioned that quantity had elevated to 29 by Wednesday.

The ship’s 600-plus crew are absolutely vaccinated, and the Australian Defence Pressure mentioned Tuesday that the preliminary 23 sufferers had been asymptomatic or solely mildly affected.

It mentioned the ship has a 40-bed hospital, together with working theaters and a essential care ward.

Piukala mentioned contactless protocols had been being utilized to all reduction provides, together with these aboard the HMAS Adelaide, that means all items offloaded from international planes or ships could be left in isolation for 3 days earlier than being dealt with by Tongans.

The ship is alleged to be loaded with about 66,000 gallons of water, buckets, jerry cans and moveable field-testing kits that may now be offloaded.

“We are able to try this in a contactless method, spray the tools in order that the prospect of passing on the virus is clearly negligible,” Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton mentioned Tuesday. “Beneath no circumstance will we compromise the well being and well-being of these Tongans who’ve already had a concerted effort towards the virus by defending themselves, and the virus just isn’t current on the island.”

However coronavirus restrictions are already hampering the help effort in different methods.

Japan has introduced its support plane will pause journeys between Australia and Tonga attributable to 4 COVID-19 instances among the many mission’s employees.

“We’re ensuring that the affect on the mission is minimal, and as soon as our overview of anti-infection measures is accomplished, we’ll proceed the mission,” a protection ministry official informed AFP.

Tonga closed its borders in early 2020 because the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe. Since then, the nation of 100,000 has recorded only one COVID-19 case, a person who returned from New Zealand in October final yr and has since absolutely recovered.

Views Of Tonga Following Volcanic Eruption And Tsunami
An aerial handout picture supplied by the New Zealand Protection Pressure exhibits houses lined in ash on January 17, 2022, in Nomuka, Tonga.

Handout/New Zealand Protection Pressure/Getty

Nonetheless, the devastating blast from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, which lies about 40 miles north of the capital Nuku’alofa, has created what the Tongan authorities describes as an “unprecedented catastrophe.”

Total villages had been washed away by tsunamis, whereas ash has poisoned water provides and destroyed crops.

Remarkably, there have been solely three reported fatalities, which the UN humanitarian company OCHA mentioned was due to efficient early warnings issued by the Tongan authorities.

OCHA mentioned communications severed by the eruption had been slowly being restored and evaluation groups had been visiting hard-to-reach areas to gauge the total scale of the catastrophe.

It mentioned 85% of Tonga’s inhabitants had been affected, with entry to secure water, ash clearance and meals provides the primary priorities.

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