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Australian vessel with Covid-19 cases arrives in Tonga waters

Wednesday 26 January 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Regional, Tonga

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Australian vessel with Covid-19 cases arrives in Tonga waters
Australian Navy HMAS Adelaide Photo: ADF

Tonga is concerned an Australian naval vessel has arrived in the Kingdom with 29 people onboard who have tested postive to Covid-19.

Addressing journalists in Nukua'lofa on Wednesday, Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni said no personnel will be allowed to disembark the HMS Adelaide which arrived in the capital Wednesday night.

Tonga's Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni (right) joined by Australia's High Commissioner to Tonga Rachael Moore (left) to witness the arrival of the first Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster III aircraft from Australia delivering humanitarian assistance on January 20, 2022.
Tonga's Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni (right) joined by Australia's High Commissioner to Tonga Rachael Moore (left) to witness the arrival of the first Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster III aircraft from Australia delivering humanitarian assistance on January 20, 2022. Photo: Handout / Australian Defence Force / AFP

He said all ships coming to the capital will only have access to drop off aid and humanitarian supplies - in contactless delivery.

He said New Zealand, Australia and France are coming and 'all they will be doing is just drop off the aid.'

Mr Sovaleni said Tonga is more concerned about Covid-19 than the clean-up from the volcanic eruption and tsunami.

Fijian troops still waiting for Tongan approval

Meanwhile, 50 Fijian military personnel in Brisbane are awaiting approval from Tonga to join the Australian Defence Forces deployment.

Fiji's Disaster Management Minister Inia Seruiratu said they are hopeful they will get the go-ahead this weekend.

Fiji Foreign Affairs Minister Inia Seruiratu addresses the meeting.
Fiji's Disaster Management Minister Inia Seruiratu Photo: Fiji govt/Facebook

"We probably looking at deploying another ship on Sunday, not a government ship, but of course paid by New Zealand and probably another 40 containers will go in that to further assist our brothers and sisters in Tonga."

Seruiratu said those deployed would have to deliver the supplies and relief items at a 'point of entry and exit so there is contactless handover.'

He said Fiji is working closely with the ADF to ensure these Covid-safe protocols are adhered to.

"It's good to see our soldiers working together with the Australian government. This shows the bond between the two countries.

"This is also shows the camaraderie between Pacific Island nations. We did this in the Solomon Islands in the last few months, and we are grateful to do it again in Tonga."

The rehabilitation efforts the Fijian soldiers include cleaning up of debris, and engineering works in hospitals and government ministries.