Cyclone Harold batters Pacific Island nations already impacted by COVID-19

Cyclone Harold is causing widespread damage across island nations, which are struggling with the clean-up amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

A state of emergency has been declared in Tonga which is experiencing gusts of up to 150km/h - cutting power and downing trees across main roads. 

In Vanuatu, the clean-up is already underway where 160,000 people have been impacted by the cyclone but due to the global pandemic, no foreigners will be allowed in to help with the recovery.

Any humanitarian supplies will be carefully handled to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

Oxfam NZ executive director Rachael Le Mesurier says "it's incredibly worrying".

"How are we going to be able to get support to people? How are they going to make sure they're OK and they're keeping safe inside a COVID-19 world where they are also trying to make sure they don't let that infection into the country?"

It's a concern shared in Fiji, where Fiji Red Cross director-general Ilisapeci Rokotunidau says some of the worst-hit islands are yet to make contact. 

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama says: "Between tropical Cyclone Harold and the COVID-19 pandemic our economy and our people have been dealt two body blows to start the year."

Currently, the economic impact of the virus threatens to be greater than the cyclone's damage, a new Oxfam report shows half a billion more people could be pushed into poverty by coronavirus.

"Oxfam is asking world leaders like the G20 and others to really recognise that if we are going to deal to this pandemic we've got to do it collectively.. we've also got to make sure that developing countries have got the resources to help their most vulnerable," Le Mesurier says.

But for now, one threat has subsided as the storm drifts into the open water of the South Pacific.

Contact Newshub with your story tips: