Plane carrying aid can’t land in Tonga after COVID case reported on board

An Australian plane carrying aid for Tonga had to turn around mid-flight after it was discovered a person on board tested positive for COVID-19.

An Australian defense spokeswoman told Reuters all members of the flight crew tested negative via rapid antigen tests, allowing them to board the plane. They also took PCR tests before they left, and when the results showed that one person tested positive for COVID-19, the plane was ordered to turn back. The supplies were moved to another aircraft that left Brisbane on Friday.

Tonga is reeling from last weekend’s Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano eruption and subsequent tsunami, which destroyed entire villages, severed communication lines, and left at least three people dead. Volcanic ash continues to cover much of Tonga, and there is a severe lack of clean drinking water.

On top of that, there have been concerns that someone involved in aid efforts might bring COVID-19 to Tonga, which is home to about 105,000 people. There are no COVID-19 cases in the kingdom, and strict border controls are in place. As supplies start to arrive from Australia and New Zealand, including power generators and water, they will be dropped off via contactless delivery.