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In pre-COVID-19 times, the Red Cross would have flown in foreign specialists to help a remote island nation like Tonga recover from a natural disaster.

But after a tsunami and volcanic eruption contaminated Tonga’s water supply last month, the government banned aid workers for fear of COVID-19 coming to a place that had so far escaped community transmission of the virus. (It came anyway.) And because the Red Cross could not easily find a local sanitation specialist, its experts in Fiji had to offer technical support over a patchy telephone line.

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