MP Jenny Salesa confident Tonga government can handle Covid-19 aboard Australian Navy vessel

By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.

Australia’s Navy plans to go ahead with delivering relief to Tonga after 23 people on board its ship HMAS Adelaide tested positive for Covid-19.

Jenny Salesa
Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee co-chair and Labour MP Jenny Salesa. Photo: RNZ Pacific: Sela Jane Hopgood

But it says it is confident it can deliver the much-needed aid to local authorities in Tonga without transmitting the virus.

In Auckland, 25 containers of supplies will be shipped out today – relief for families devastated by the volcano and tsunami that hit the Kingdom on 15 January.

Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee co-chair and Labour MP Jenny Salesa told Morning Report the issue of whether the Adelaide should deliver supplies was an issue for Tonga’s government.

“What I can say is when there was the first case of a Covid-19 positive person – that was actually someone from New Zealand – but went into Tonga a few months ago now, that was actually big news in Tonga at the time.

“Fortunately, they were able to keep that case at MIQ. It didn’t go out into the community, but Tonga, as you know, is one of these countries in the Pacific, that is still Covid free and they have been really strict with their border to ensure that they keep that status.

“I am confident that the government of Tonga will be able to deal with it appropriately.”

In Auckland, last night a team of volunteers had loaded 22 containers with 3238 44-gallon drums – most filled with groceries – destined for Tonga.

“Twenty-one of the containers that are filled already are from families in New Zealand to families in Tonga, and we have three more containers to load this morning. So overall there will be 25 containers that will be sent to Tonga.

“Four of these, though, will be sent to the government of Tonga to NEMO – the National Emergency Management Office – and one of those containers to the government is filled with cereal because the prime minister of Tonga had come through to us asking that we help provide at least one meal for the children of Tonga, which is breakfast.”

Overall, the 25 containers were estimated to be worth about $1.6 million dollars of aid.

“We’re really grateful to all of our Tongan families who united through our call and actually came together to fill these containers with food, but I’m also grateful to every New Zealand family, companies, NGOs, temples and churches who have come through to contribute.”

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