WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand Defence Force said on Wednesday it had flown a team of civilian doctors, nurses and defence force personnel along with personal protective gear to tiny pacific island Niue to help with the country’s COVID-19 outbreak.

Niue, a self governing state that is in free association with New Zealand, had kept COVID out of the community having largely closed its borders in the early days of the pandemic. However, following its first quarantine-free flight on June 27 a number of passengers tested positive for COVID.

The defence force said in a statement it had also taken a generator on the flight as Niue had been dealing with power interruptions.

“As a South West Pacific nation, it is an important role for New Zealand’s Defence Force to enable this important support to our neighbours,” said Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour, Commander of the Joint Forces New Zealand.

In a separate statement the New Zealand government said the decision to send the team followed a request for help from the Niuean government.

Niue, which has a population of roughly 1,600 people, is highly vaccinated. Around 99% of those over the age of five are double vaccinated and 93% of those over the age of 18 are boosted, according to the New Zealand government.

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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