Tongan prime minister tests positive for Covid-19

Tongan prime minister Siaosi Sovaleni was experiencing only mild symptoms and would continue his duties while isolating at home. PHOTO: PAL_VCP/TWITTER

SYDNEY (AFP) - Tongan prime minister Siaosi Sovaleni has tested positive for Covid-19, his office said on Monday (March 14), as his Pacific island nation continues its recovery from a devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami.

While Tonga was able to remain Covid-19-free for much of the pandemic, cases began to rise soon after international aid ships from Australia and New Zealand arrived in the wake of a powerful Jan 15 tsunami, which claimed at least three lives.

There have since been 1,032 Covid-19 cases in Tonga with no deaths recorded as yet, according to the World Health Organisation.

Sovaleni was experiencing only mild symptoms and would continue his duties while isolating at home, his office said on Monday.

"We are now adjusting our lives and affairs as we learn to live with Covid-19 and I will continue to serve His Majesty, Government and our People during my time in isolation," the prime minister said.

The cataclysmic Jan 15 eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano - located about 65k from Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa - caused a shockwave that reverberated around the globe several times and shrouded Tonga's islands in a thick layer of ash.

A subsequent tsunami, which hit Tonga soon after, swept residents to their deaths, destroyed homes and buildings and severed the nation's undersea communication cable, cutting off communication with the outside world for weeks.

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