THE Ministry of Health has recorded a total of over 4537 Covid positive cases including three babies under one month.

The Hon. Minister of Health Dr. Saia Piukala told media, the total number of Covid cases as of March 23rd was 4,174 but today March 24th 363 news cases were recorded taking the total to 4537.

Of that number 1,609 have recovered.

For Tongatapu, there are 4,065 Covid positive cases and 108 in Vava’u. Of that 108, 42 have recovered, 9 in isolation facilities and 57 in home quarantine in Vava’u.

Dr. Piukala said 119 passengers from the recent repatriation flights have released home from the MIQ facilities. 16 have remained in isolation after being tested positive of Covid. 11 were tested positive in Makeke and five in Taliai isolation facilities.

The Hon. Health Minister says the 16 repatriation passengers are to complete the 14-day quarantine period to ensure their Covid test are negative before releasing them.

Meanwhile, there is a total of 1,812 between the ages 20-39 that are infected with Covid. Dr. Piukala says the young adults in this age group have the highest infection cases.

In the age group 70 and above, there are 86 reported positive cases. For this reason, the Ministry of Health is shifting its attention to providing special health care for the most vulnerable ones including elderlies aged 70 and above.

The youngest to have been infected with Covid are three babies under one month old. 51 toddlers were also tested positive under the one-year-old category – all have recovered.

In another development, the Hon. Health Minister also confirmed nine deaths so far. This includes three recent deaths due to Covid-19. According to the Health Minister, the six recent deaths refers to six patients with pre-existing underlying medical conditions who were also tested positive of Covid.

Dr. Piukala said work is underway to define the meaning of deaths caused by Covid and other causes. The intention is to align it to the common practice used in the Pacific for the certification and classification of deaths associated with Covid.

The Health Minister also denied reports that Delta variant has reached our shore. However, he confirmed that Omicron is the only Covid variant in the Kingdom.

He said BA.1 is the Omicron variant that people in Vava’u are infected with as well as Tongatapu. However, he also pointed out, Omicron BA.2 type has already in Tonga, with two cases previously reported from the Tanoa MIQs. He further explained that symptoms of both variants are quite similar except for Omicron BA.2 type which are more infectious.

The first dose vaccination rate has reached 98 percent and 90 for the second shots vaccination rate. The booster shots rate is 49 percent.

Dr. Piukala encourages the public to get booster vaccinated as it provides better protection against getting severely ill and hospitalisation.

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