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Friday, March 31, 2023

23 Australian sailors aboard the aid ship to Tonga have the virus

Servicemembers Load On Hmas Adelaide At The Port Of Brisbane Before Departing For Tonga Following A Volcanic Eruption Thursday, January 20, 2022.  Nearly Two Dozen Sailors Aboard Adelaide Have Tested Positive For The Coronavirus, Officials Said On Tuesday, January 25, 2022, Raising Fears They May Have Brought The Disease To Tonga That Has So Far Avoided Any Outbreaks. Has Succeeded.

Servicemembers load on HMAS Adelaide at the port of Brisbane before departing for Tonga following a volcanic eruption Thursday, January 20, 2022. Nearly two dozen sailors aboard Adelaide have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said on Tuesday, January 25, 2022, raising fears they may have brought the disease to Tonga that has so far avoided any outbreaks. has succeeded. (Robert Whitmore/Australia Defense Force via AP)

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Nearly two dozen sailors on an Australian military ship heading to Tonga have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said on Tuesday, fearing they may contract COVID-19 in a Pacific nation. Who has managed to escape so far. any outbreak.

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said his government was working with Tongan authorities to ensure the ship was kept at sea and that there was no danger to Tonga’s 105,000 residents.

Tongan officials have been wary that a massive underwater volcano eruption 10 days before international aid is accepted could spell a disaster. The eruption triggered a tsunami that destroyed dozens of homes, and volcanic ash contaminated drinking water.

Since the pandemic began, Tonga has reported only one case of COVID-19 and avoided any outbreaks. It is currently one of the few countries in the world completely virus free. According to Our World in Data, about 61% of Tongans are fully vaccinated.

Australian officials said 23 crew members were infected aboard HMAS Adelaide, which departed Brisbane on Friday.

“They are in dire need of assistance, but they don’t want to risk COVID,” Dutton told Sky News. “We’ll work through all of that as quickly as we can.”

This is the second aid shipment from Australia in which at least one crew member tested positive. A C-17 Globemaster military transport aircraft was previously converted mid-flight after someone was diagnosed with it.

Meanwhile, a cable company official said the main island of Tonga could restore its internet service within two weeks, although it may take longer to repair connections to smaller islands.

The single undersea fiber-optic cable connecting the Pacific nation to the outside world was torn after the explosion and tsunami.

This left most people unable to connect with their loved ones abroad. For many days people could not contact through their phone, email or social media.

Since then, Tonga’s Digicel has been able to restore international call services in some areas using satellite connections. Some people are able to send email or receive limited internet connectivity.

Samiula Fonua, who chairs the board at state-owned Tonga Cable Ltd, said a repair ship had left Papua New Guinea and was scheduled to stop in Samoa by Monday to pick up supplies. , After this it should reach Tonga by 1 February.

Fonua said CS Reliance had a crew of around 60, including engineers, divers and medical staff. Its equipment includes a robot that can assess cables on the ocean floor, he said.

Fonua said preliminary estimates indicated the break in the cable was located about 37 kilometers (23 mi) from the main island of Tongatapu. He said with everything going well, the crew should be able to repair the cable by February 8, restoring internet to about 80% of Tonga’s customers.

The cable runs from Tonga to Fiji for a distance of about 800 kilometers (500 mi), and was first commissioned in 2013 at a cost of approximately $16 million. It was financed through grants from the World Bank Group and the Asian Development Bank, and increased Tonga’s internet capacity five-fold.

But like many smaller Pacific countries, Tonga relies heavily on a single cable to stay connected and has little in the way of back-up planning. Three years ago, a cable break is believed to have been caused by a ship pulling its anchor, causing several weeks of blockages.

A second, domestic fiber-optic cable that connects the smaller islands of Tonga to the main island may prove more difficult to repair. Fonua said the cable runs under the sea near a volcano that may have erupted and was seriously damaged. It may also require extensive repair or replacement, he said.

Fonua said the focus was on fixing the main international cable, and that they could deal with domestic connections “later”.

He said Tongans had some understanding of communication disruptions caused by the disaster, which killed three people, destroyed dozens of homes and contaminated water supplies with volcanic ash.

“People are calmer. Coming out of the total blackout, just being able to call outside and send emails has given them some comfort,” Fonua said. “By the time they start getting more frustrated, I hope we have the cable connected by then.”


World Nation News Desk
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