TOKYO – A member of Japan’s Self-Defense Force (SDF) unit that was dispatched to provide aid to disaster-struck Tonga has tested positive for COVID-19, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said Tuesday.
According to Japan’s Defense Ministry, a member of the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) tested positive for the virus after spiking a fever on Monday and taking an antigen test.
The ASDF member belongs to a unit currently based in Australia and took the test there, NHK quoted Japan’s Defense Ministry as saying.
As a result, the infected individual is now in quarantine along with 21 other SDF personnel who are suspected of having close contact with the individual.
The ministry said that the infected member, along with all the other personnel dispatched to provide assistance to the disaster-stricken Pacific islands nation, all took polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests before they departed from Japan.
Tonga, which is currently free from COVID-19, was rocked by a powerful undersea volcanic eruption on Jan. 15, triggering a devastating tsunami.
On Monday, Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) dispatched a transport vessel with more aid to help the disaster-hit Pacific islands nation.
The Defense Ministry said the vessel was carrying 60,000 liters of drinking water as well as 60 high-pressure washers.
Read more: Japan to expand COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency to 30 prefectures
The high-pressure washers will be used to help remove a thick blanket of volcanic ash left in the wake of the massive undersea volcanic eruption.
The ministry here said that the unit’s delivery of drinking water and other emergency supplies to be delivered to Tonga, will not be affected by the COVID-19 incident.
The ministry also said that along with two CH-47 transport helicopters, two hovercrafts and trucks, 300 personnel would also join the mission as part of Japan’s ongoing relief operation to Tonga.
The latest dispatch followed two transport planes loaded with drinking water and other emergency supplies sent by Japan. According to the Tonga government, the falling ash and the tsunami have affected more than 80 percent of its population.
Japan’s first dispatch on Jan. 20 of supplies and aid to Tonga arrived on Saturday
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