COVID-19: Tonga to go into week-long lockdown after positive case flies in from Christchurch

Tonga's announced a week-long lockdown, after a person who travelled there from Christchurch was confirmed to have the virus.

The Health Ministry says contacts of the case have returned initial negative results - but Tonga has decided to take all precautions.

Hundreds queued outside the bank in the capital Nuku'alofa - a dash to get money out from relatives in New Zealand before the lockdown hit.

"We can see from the amounts and when we ask people what the purpose of the funds is, it's to assist families in their preparation for COVID-19," one person told Newshub.

The Prime Minister announced the lockdown late Monday afternoon. It will cover all of the main island Tongatapu and the nearby island group of Ha'apai from midnight tonight.

Teacher Talika Matangi says the lockdown will impact learning - but she hopes it won't be too disruptive.

"The senior students are on a student break. The juniors have their last exam this week so we have to delay it but it's not a harm as everyone is prepared for that."

The case travelled to Tonga from Christchurch last Wednesday on a flight carrying 215 people. They've been transferred to a special MIQ in Mu'a on the east of the main island, Tongatapu. The remaining 214 passengers on the same flight are isolating at the Tanoa Hotel in the capital, Nuku'alofa.

The case had four contacts in New Zealand.

"All four of those household contacts have been tested and have returned negative tests," says Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

The positive case has led to a surge in vaccinations, especially among young people.

"I heard on the radio about the importance of vaccine and I want to come because I don't want to get COVID," says student Manu Manuifetoa.

"I'm here today to get vaccinated because we already have a case here in Tonga and it is safer to get vaccinated now so that my family is safe," adds mother Tangisi Tupou.

The royal family in Tonga have been busy publicising the need to vaccinate, with various images of Princess Pilolevu receiving the Pfizer vaccine circulating on social media.

No new cases have been detected in Tonga since the initial case, with the public health risk deemed low. Locals just hope it remains that way.