Tongan authorities are battling to contain the spread of Covid-19, locking down two villages as more cases emerge.

In a media conference on Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni said there are now 14 active cases, and one person had recovered.

The villages of Vaini and Pili, which have six new cases between them, have been designated red zones and residents are not permitted to leave the area.

The new cases are linked to previous cases.

There have been long queues of people at bread shops in the capital Nuku’alofa as residents are allowed to do shopping on Tuesday between 6am and 6pm.

Meanwhile, two ports workers might have contracted COVID-19 early last week due to ‘human error’ said Tongan Ministry of Health CEO Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola, said.

A port worker touching a surface and scratching his or her face.

“That’s all it takes, just that scratch,” he said, as further community transmission of COVID-19 was announced at a media conference.

Since then, a total of seven active COVID-19 cases have been confirmed. An earlier case had recovered, but all remained in isolation.

“It could be that the breach in this situation is from human error,” he said.

“So, it could be that someone was working, and had an itchy eye, and just scratched it with gloves after touching a [contaminated] surface.”

“Someone could have spat on the surface and someone else could have unknowingly touched it. And if you don’t ensure you wash your hands, you can be infected.”
“These are very small things and that is why COVID-19 is very difficult. I believe people need to take the nature of COVID-19 seriously,” he said.

“I believe small things like this is what is breached.”

Dr ‘Akua’ola urged people to focus on protecting their families and not make accusations of where the virus came from.

Minister for Health, Dr Saia Piukala said that at this time, we cannot change the past.

“But we thank the frontliners for their difficult work in protecting our borders. Many countries in this world could not protect their borders. And we should take our hats off, out of respect for workers at the wharf or the airport or the hospital.”

Meanwhile, the test samples of the virus have been sent to Australia to confirm what type of variant is in Tonga and confirmation is expected later this week.

However, government believes it is the Omicron variant that is in the country and treating it as such.

Dr ‘Akau’ola highlighted that the good part for Tonga is that the Omicron does not affect a lot of people who have been vaccinated but he urged people to follow COVID protocols.

“It is important for people to wear a mask, practice social distancing of 2 metres, and it is also important to wash your hands.”

“People should take these things seriously.”

If you abide by these protocols, it reduces your chance of catching the virus.

In addition, those people who have been advised to self-isolate at home have been asked to be obedient. They are being monitored by the health team via telephone daily.

“We need to work together on this,” he said.