5 new COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Fiji while screening continued overnight after confirmation that a garment factory worker from Kalabu is one of the positive cases.
Permanent Secretary for Health, Doctor James Fong says the first two cases are close household contacts of previously announced cases, and they have tested positive while secure in quarantine facilities.
One is the 25-year-old wife of the case who stayed in Vunimono, Nausori and the other is his 52-year-old aunt.
They are most concerned with the aunt from Vunimono, as she worked in a garment factory in Kalabu.
Doctor Fong says her place of work has been shut down since they announced the restrictions on Monday, and they are screening everyone she worked with while she may have been contagious.
He says they have contacted the management of the factory she worked in, and the factory next door, and these managers have agreed to work together with the ministry to ensure that their workers are urgently screened.
Doctor Fong says their plan last night was to have the teams go house-to-house and swab as many of them as possible, at least 80 percent if they can.
As that investigation progresses, Doctor Fong says the same principles as always apply - health restrictions may expand or become more stringent lockdown measures, and that could start as soon as this evening.
Doctor Fong says the third case is a former border quarantine passenger who arrived from Papua New Guinea into Nadi on Friday April 9th. He had three negative pre-departure tests before leaving PNG, and tested negative twice while in the Tanoa Hotel border quarantine, before being discharged on April 23rd.
The Permanent Secretary says he was reswabbed in Navua as part of the investigations into the quarantine breaches at the Tanoa facility, and has subsequently tested positive.
Doctor Fong says the man is now in quarantine.
He also confirms that he had contact with case number 95, the husband living in Makoi, on the day of his discharge from the Tanoa quarantine facility.
The ministry has identified 98 people who were discharged from the Tanoa border quarantine facility between April 12th and April 25th, 82 of these people have been contacted and told to home quarantine.
Repeat testing of these people is underway, and the remaining 16 are being contacted.
The fourth case is a 68-year-old man in Rakiraki. He tested positive after presenting to the Rakiraki Hospital Outpatients Department with a cough and fever.
They are yet to establish any direct link between this case and existing cases.
Investigations are ongoing while this man has been entered into quarantine.
Doctor Fong says they are quite sure there are others like him out there.
Anyone who is feeling unwell anywhere in Fiji should report immediately to a screening clinic.
The fifth case tested is a border quarantine case.
He is a 23-year-old man who travelled from Guyana to Fiji, arriving on April 22nd on NZ952 from Auckland.
He tested positive while undergoing mandatory 14-day quarantine at a border quarantine facility in Nadi.
Permanent Secretary for Health, Doctor James Fong says they believe we may be in the early part of a very fast-rising upward curve in COVID-19 case numbers.
He says the case number 111, the man from the Makoi cluster that travelled to Vunimono, is of high concern because of his extensive travel history since April 14th, when he was first exposed.
Doctor Fong says that is over two weeks of moving around Viti Levu, so the contact tracing teams are in overdrive working to determine and contact everyone he may have encountered who they determine to be of risk.
He says they hope that the risk of transmission was lessened by the fact that the man, at no point over the past weeks, displayed COVID symptoms.
But he says the hope is not a strategy as the man was engaged in higher-risk activities like drinking grog and sharing cigarettes with friends and family, others very well may have been exposed to the virus. The 110th case, who is the man living in Rakiraki, still does not have a clearly established connection to their existing cases.
However, Doctor Fong says thanks to contact tracing, they have leads, but until they are confident enough to make an official confirmation, all Fijians should continue to behave as if they have been exposed to the virus.
Boundaries in Ra have been set, and the patient’s family are now in quarantine and have been swabbed for testing.
The ministry has also swabbed another 40 primary contacts of this man and screened 406 others in Ra. The results are pending.
Meanwhile, Doctor Fong says most Fijians are already taking this threat seriously.
But he says most of us is not enough.
Every Fijian must act responsibly, wash your hands often and stay at home.
He says we still have too much movement among the public.
Doctor Fong says if there’s one measure that matters more than any, it is that: Stay Home.
If you have an absolutely essential reason to leave the house, wear a mask at all times and turn on your careFIJI app everywhere you go. If you feel unwell, call 158 or visit your nearest screening clinic.
Permanent Secretary for Health, Doctor James Fong stresses that gatherings are not allowed for the simple reason that congregations of any size can become superspreader events.
He highlighted this after he saw some photos of a picnic happening in Lami on Wednesday, one of several high-risk areas in the country.
Doctor Fong says it was mostly young people who were having a bit of a “lockdown party”.
He says in one photo, he counted 19 people piled on top of one another, mostly young people.
Doctor Fong says if even one of them was carrying COVID-19, that could easily result in 18 more cases.
He says young people are generally thought to be at lower risk of severe COVID-19 but that does not matter.
The Permanent Secretary says they are not immune, as we have seen from other countries that once a large outbreak takes hold, everyone is affected.
Doctor Fong says young people can also end up being hospitalised and dying, and many of us also share homes with multiple generations.
He says we have children, parents, and grandparents all under one roof.
Doctor Fong says this is a fact: Something as simple as a picnic could get people killed.
He says that is why he is asking every mother and father in Fiji to please keep their children at home.
Meanwhile the Health Ministry has completed the first round of screening in Narere and Cunningham, and have screened over 95 percent of target population in Wainivula, Caubati, Tacirua and Makoi, with 144,747 people screened across Viti Levu and many more thousands to go.
Doctor James Fong says these screenings do work, especially at identifying high-risk contagious cases of COVID-19 but just because you have been screened does not mean you are clear to flaunt any of the restrictions.
Doctor Fong stresses that screening is different from testing, and it is far from as effective as a proper 14 days in quarantine.
He says that is why they will be screening high-risk areas multiple times, as someone screened once may well become a viral carrier days later.
The Permanent Secretary for Health Doctor James Fong says in a full lockdown no one except essential service workers move and it will be absolutely illegal for someone to stand on the side of the road or in a public space.
He says the only people moving around will be the screening teams and ambulances taking sick people.
Doctor Fong also stresses that in order for them to go into full lockdown they need to sort out things like food supply and the pre-positioning of essential items.
The Health Ministry says they have developed new protocols around funeral arrangements.
Permanent Secretary for Health, Doctor James Fong says when a death does occur, they will allow the body to be transported to its final resting place through containment area borders. However, they will only allow the vehicle with one driver to cross the border, and that driver must have careFIJI installed and turned on.
The driver will be escorted by Corrections Officers to ensure they remain in the vehicle the entire time they are within the containment area.
Doctor Fong says let’s not forget this outbreak started at a funeral.
He says when these events are held, they all have to be very disciplined about wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and ensuring no more than 20 people attend.
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