Permanent Secretary for Health, Doctor James Fong has announced 35 new cases of COVID-19 however he says expect the cases to escalate.
While making the announcement via zoom, Doctor Fong says this is the latest update in a record-breaking surge over the last several days, with the majority of cases among known clusters in the Central Division.
He says after an entire year without a local case of the virus, he knows these double-digit daily case numbers are unsettling news for many and they should be.
The Permanent Secretary stresses nothing is reassuring about the low numbers of severe disease and death recorded so far.
He says this is the same variant that has inflicted mass death upon many other nations.
Doctor Fong calls on people not to listen to the false prophets and pseudo-experts who say this disease cannot harm them.
He says they are lying, and they will lead vulnerable Fijians into ICUs and, in worst-case scenarios, an early grave.
Doctor Fong says we shouldn’t have to force anyone to take obvious steps to keep themselves safe and healthy.
He calls on people not to wait for more deaths to hone their discipline.
He says while they will continue to publish the locations of new clusters, no one should base their adherence or lack thereof based on whether they are near a cluster or in a red zone or a green zone.
Doctor Fong says we are dealing with community transmission.
That means the exact source of every case is not known so while they will continue to employ targeted lockdowns, everyone in Fiji must adhere to COVID-safe protocols.
He says the Central Division is seeing the biggest spikes in case numbers, but if we are not extremely careful we could see severe outbreaks in many other parts of Fiji.
Doctor Fong says this is a highly transmissible and deadly disease but there are ways we can protect ourselves.
He says if you are one of those who have not been taking this outbreak seriously, it’s time to stop being careless.
The Permanent Secretary says there has never been a higher level of risk in the Lami-Nausori Containment Area than today.
He says the scale of this outbreak now requires a different approach.
They are guided by two objectives: Keep already infectious and potentially infectious people safely away from the public, and provide life-saving care to those who do develop a severe case of COVID-19.
Doctor Fong says they will now be maintaining their stationary screening clinics and saving the mobile teams to do contact tracing, screen areas of concern and deploy to homes that report individuals with COVID-like symptoms.
If individuals test positive, they will be placed under home isolation, with groceries and essential household items provided.
Doctor Fong says if they develop a severe illness, they will be transported to a hospital.
He says if you feel symptoms call the Health Ministry on 158, get tested, get protected with the care you need now and don’t muck around with your health or the health of your loved ones.
The Permanent Secretary says the mitigation measures will mostly be in the Central Division where containment measures are focused on positive persons and contacts.
He also says Fijians in the West, in the North, and everywhere in Fiji must continue with the COVID-safe measures.
Doctor Fong says it is therefore extremely important that people understand why they need to carefully manage movement from Contained Areas to Uncontained Areas.
He says they sympathise with your need to relocate; they are working hard to develop protocols that can allow you to move without risking further transmission of the virus.
Doctor Fong also says the longer-term path out of this crisis is clear: We have to protect as many Fijians as possible as quickly as possible through safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.
He says that means getting as many jabs in as many arms as we can.
Doctor Fong says more than 225,000 have already received at least one dose.
He says that is an excellent start but we need to immunise more and we need everyone who has received dose one to receive their second dose when it is due.
Doctor Fong says that is our best possible defence against a wave of hospitalizations and even deaths that could be headed our way.
The Head of Health Protection Dr Aalisha Sahukhan says 26 of the new COVID-19 cases are linked to the previous announced clusters.
She says the cluster for COVID-19 Incident Management Team has 5 new cases, CWM Hospital cluster has 18 new cases, Fiji Navy cluster has 1 new case, Nawaka, Nadi cluster has 1 new case and Caubati cluster also has 1 new case.
9 cases are under investigation to determine if they have any links to other cases.
2 cases are from Lami, 2 are in Nasinu, 2 are in Valelevu, 2 cases are in Koronivia and 2 cases are from Toorak.
She says 15 patients have recovered and there are now 624 active cases in isolation.
Dr. Sahukhan says they are aware of the concern about the number of frontline health care workers that have tested positive for COVID-19.
Dr. Sahukhan says medical staff and frontline health care workers cannot stay at home as there would be no response to this outbreak and nobody will be left to take care of sick patients in hospitals if they stay at home.
Dr. Sahukhan adds if you're carrying out approved work outside your home, then you should avoid eating lunch with others in your office as you have to take off masks to eat.
She says most offices have common office tea room which is a potential source of transmission.
The Health Ministry's Chief Medical Advisor Doctor Jemesa Tudravu says health workers are able, committed and willing but the community needs to be willing to work with them to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Dr Tudravu says they are working with various government agencies and disciplinary forces but it will not be enough if they do not have the support from the community.
He says they have the staffing numbers to address the situation at hand.
Dr Tudravu says currently there are active cases in the hospitals, community isolation facilities and a group that is being looked after at home.
He says the CWM Hospital has now been designated as a COVID hospital which is very similar to what was done in the Lautoka Hospital when it was on lockdown.
Dr Tudravu says the FEMAT Field Hospital at the Vodafone Arena is now admitting and caring for non COVID cases.
He says in the last 24 hours, 4,708 individuals were screened with 512 swabbed.
Dr Tudravu says also in the last 24 hours 12, 346 individuals received their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine while 136 received their second dose.
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