HMAS Adelaide hit by Covid-19 outbreak on its way to Tonga
Australia’s largest warship has been hit with a major outbreak of Covid-19, just days before it was due to arrive in Tonga on an aid mission.
HMAS Adelaide was expected to arrive in Tonga on Wednesday to deliver much needed emergency aid and resources to the South Pacific nation following a devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami.
However, the ship’s arrival has now been delayed after 23 staff aboard HMAS Adelaide tested positive to Covid-19.
Speaking with Sky News, Defence Minister Peter Dutton said officials are working with the Tongan government to chart a path forward.
“They need the aid desperately but they don't want the Covid risk,” the minister said.
“It may mean (HMAS Adelaide) is able to dock and we provide that support and then move on from there,” he said.
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“It may mean that they stand off and wait a number of days but we don't have personnel on the ground, it’s a matter of dropping the aid and providing that support.
“We will work through all of that as quickly as we can.”
There are more than 600 crew on-board the warship.
In a statement, a Defence spokesperson said those who tested positive were either asymptomatic or displaying mild symptoms.
“The positive Covid cases, and close contacts, are being isolated and managed in accordance with Covid-safe protocols,” they said.
“HMAS Adelaide has excellent medical facilities on board, including Covid testing capabilities and a 40-bed hospital with operating theatres and a critical care ward.
“Personnel are asymptomatic or displaying mild symptoms – a benefit of all crew being fully vaccinated against Covid-19.”
Mr Dutton confirmed aid has already been delivered to Tonga via C-17 planes.
“We are not going to put the Tongan population at risk,” he said.
Tonga, which has not recorded a case of Covid-19 since October, has requested a contactless delivery of aid.
The ship is the second aid delivery to the nation that has been plagued by Covid infection.
Last Friday, Tonga turned back an aid flight from Australia due to a positive case on board.
Originally published as HMAS Adelaide hit by Covid-19 outbreak on its way to Tonga
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