18 COVID-19 cases in Ha’apai community

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Ha’apai has 18 positive COVID-19 cases in the community, recorded on Saturday, Tongan Minister for Health, Dr Saia Piukala said Monday.

He said according to reports, there did not seem to be any connection to the positive cases in quarantine in Ha’apai at this stage, but more information on the situation would be confirmed later.

Around 126 people travelled to Ha’apai from Tongatapu last month and while staying in quarantine some tested positive to COVID-19 during routine testing.

Dr Piukala said health would be releasing these passengers from quarantine in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.

There are now a total of 76 cumulative cases in Ha’apai.

In Vava’u, 33 new COVID-19 cases were reported yesterday bringing the total active cases to 139, while 107 had recovered.

New daily COVID-19 cases in Tonga have reduced over the past week with 295 new cases reported last Thursday, 155 last Friday, 131 last Saturday, and 107 Sunday.

So far, a total of 7,234 cumulative COVID-19 cases had been recorded in Tonga, with 4,915 recovered, 2,303 active cases, and nine deaths due to COVID-19. Another seven deaths of those who had COVID-19 were not due to the virus.

Tonga Medical Superintendent Dr ‘Ana ‘Akau’ola ‘confirmed there are nine people with COVID-19 currently in Mu’a Health Centre at the moment.

“Some are moderately severe but none are in ICU.2

“Another nine COVID-19 positive people are in Vaiola Hospital, three in Taliai and some in Makeke. However, those in Taliai and Makeke are usually for those who don’t want to home isolate. They are mainly frontliners. There is no one in ICU.”

Meanwhile, five repatriated passengers tested positive to the virus after arriving last week. Four positive cases are staying at the Tanoa Hotel and one at the Kupesi Hotel.

Dr Piukala confirmed more specimens taken from the community in Tongatapu were sent overseas to determine the type of variant circulating in Tonga.

He said results from 39 specimens confirmed that Omicron variant (BA1) is in the community and another four specimens taken from previous repatriates were confirmed to be Omicron (BA2).

Dr ‘Ana ‘Akau’ola said that BA2 is very transmissible, much more so than BA1.

“It’s effect on people are the same mostly mild symptoms.”

Vaccination rates for COVID-19 remains at 98% of the target population for first doses, 90% for second doses and 49 percent for boosters.

On Tongatapu, the vaccination program has started with AstraZeneca available for first and second doses and the Pfizer for booster doses.

Public Health Sister Afu Tei said the vaccine roll out programme started Monday at Niutoua and would continue throughout Tongatapu.

“There are around 20,000 plus people who have not yet had their booster shots.”

Pfizer doses are also being sent to the outer islands and vaccination programs will be rolled out there.

“We will go from town to town so people don’t have to travel around.”

Sister Tei said the Niuas booster shots are due on 15 April and there is a plan for the health team to travel there closer to the due date.

Meanwhile, Pfizer vaccines for those aged 5 to 11 from the New Zealand Government, are scheduled to arrive in Tonga on 15 April.

People who test positive to COVID-19 and have medical issues can call toll free numbers 0800012 or 0800013 to speak to Dr Sione Latu and his team.

Dr ‘Ana ‘Akau’ola urged only people who have COVID-19 and feel they need medical attention should call these numbers.

“The reason is so we can focus on people who are struggling right now and who have underlying diseases,” said Dr Akau’ola.

SOURCE: TONGA WIRES/PACNEWS