Four new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed – three are locally transmitted cases while there is one border quarantine case.
Permanent Secretary for Health, Doctor James Fong says the first case is another border quarantine case that had travelled with a border quarantine case announced earlier. One is a 47-year-old nurse at the Raiwaqa Health Centre.
She was swabbed after she reported a slight cough.
After her positive result registered today, the Health Ministry immediately closed the Raiwaqa Health Centre to the public.
Doctor Fong says a contact tracing investigation has been launched, all relevant personnel and patients are being quarantined. The nurse’s household contacts have also been swabbed.
Her 51-year-old husband has also tested positive for COVID-19. He is also a focus of a contact tracing investigation.
The Permanent Secretary says they only identified these two cases late this afternoon, and they do not yet have a clear link of transmission for either case.
The other local case is a 25-year-old nurse working within Lautoka Hospital.
Doctor Fong says this nurse is already in the Lautoka Hospital since last night along with the rest of the hospital’s personnel and patients.
He says after her positive test results, she has been entered into isolation. Investigations are ongoing into how she might have caught the virus. Doctor Fong also says the testing has ruled out a breach of the Lautoka Hospital Isolation Ward after all staff returned negative COVID-19 test results.
He says this is a reassuring affirmation of the operational protocols for their COVID Isolation Ward which must be maintained as the most secure facilities in the country.
However, this news also indicates that the community is the most likely source of the Lautoka Hospital outbreak.
He says in the early phase of their containment strategy, they hoped to break the early chains of transmission quickly by tracing and testing primary and secondary contacts of existing cases.
Doctor Fong says they have always screened carefully for symptomatic cases among the community as well, however, this surge in cases of unknown origin demands that they develop much stronger mechanisms of community surveillance.
He says as their testing capacity steadily increases, they are going to become even more judicious in their testing of all Fijians with COVID-like symptoms, regardless of their connection to existing patients.
But Doctor Fong says the thing about community surveillance is that it requires the community.
He says it requires that all of us are fully invested in the containment of the virus.
The Permanent Secretary says screening clinics can be opened, but it takes the initiative of an ill patient to come forward for the ministry to find them.
Permanent Secretary for Health Doctor James Fong says following the worrying spate of cases among our healthcare workers, they are taking urgent steps to prevent more of our health facilities from becoming source points of new COVID outbreaks.
Doctor Fong says their longstanding protocol has been to screen all incoming patients for COVID-19 symptoms and test if necessary at admission. He says this will be strengthened.
They will also be heavily restricting visiting hours at all hospitals and health centres in Fiji to limit mixing between patients, medical personnel, and the general public.
He says this was not an easy decision for the Health Ministry.
Doctor Fong says they have only considered it given the serious threat this virus poses to the people and the ability to offer other forms of life-saving care.
He says with Lautoka Hospital now serving as a full-time COVID care facility, they need every hospital and health centre in the country open and accessible for other critical medical treatments.
Permanent Secretary for Health, Doctor James Fong says to cater for non-COVID patients, they are setting up a 150-bed Non-COVID Field Hospital in Lautoka.
Doctor Fong says they plan to have this open in 48 hours to handle patients with illnesses that can be treated on a 21-day timeline.
As announced by the Prime Minister, the Fiji Emergency Medical Assistance Team (FEMAT) has been dispatched on the government medical carrier vessel, the MV Veivueti, to support the healthcare management strategy within the Lautoka Containment Area.
The Permanent Secretary says extending from that field hospital will be clear patient care flow pathways that allow for patients to be securely moved to other hospitals and healthcare facilities if necessary.
The Field Hospital will enforce strict COVID screening and security to ensure it is a COVID-free facility, while the Lautoka Hospital remains exclusively a COVID care facility.
To ensure there are no lapses in healthcare services for those looking to visit public hospitals, Doctor Fong says they have been talking to a number of private general practitioners in the Nadi-Lautoka-Ba area to open the doors of their clinics to those Fijians who normally cannot afford to visit a private practitioner.
Government will directly pay the private practitioners for the treatment and consultations provided for such people.
He says under these soon-to-be finalised arrangements, patients who normally go to public hospitals and health centres can access non-COVID treatment or consultations at private clinics in Nadi, Lautoka, and Ba.
Tomorrow, they will be announcing the names of the private doctors who have stepped up in solidarity with the Health Ministry to ensure the people can access the non-COVID care they require.
He has urged other private doctors to call him.
Doctor Fong says contingency plans have also been developed for a range of scenarios, including the need to expand capacity in the event of additional community cases in and outside of Lautoka, a severe weather event, or a COVID-leak in the Field Hospital.
He says this is the first major operation for FEMAT in response to a national disaster and their teams are ready to show the nation what they can do.
The Health Ministry says non-essential businesses outside the containment areas should close.
Permanent Secretary for Health, Doctor James Fong says the opening of these businesses are simply no longer worth the risk.
He says Lautoka and Suva are not the only areas of the country that require vigilance.
Doctor Fong says we now have too many cases of possible community transmission to say, with confidence, that the virus is limited to the containment areas.
He says nationwide, supermarkets, shops, banks, pharmacies, and other essential industries are the only businesses that should open.
Doctor Fong stresses that early society-wide prevention measures can decrease widespread transmission.
Wash your hands often, wear a mask in public, install careFIJI and keep it running every time you leave the home, and maintain physical distance at all times.
He says police have announced today they will be enforcing physical distance in public places and businesses.
If you see a crowd, don’t add to the problem. Stay away.
Permanent Secretary for Health Doctor James Fong says if the ICUs become stressed with high numbers of COVID-positive patients, they will be hard-pressed, like other countries with high rates of infection, to fully treat people who need critical care, and it will be too late to prevent a great deal of human suffering.
Doctor Fong says we still have the chance to stop that from happening.
He has asked that households, communities, organisations, and businesses all think seriously about the steps they can take as well.
Doctor Fong says the health guidance they publish is the baseline for the actions and behaviour they expect from businesses and the public.
He says you could save a life, and together, as that commitment carries across the country, all of us can spare Fiji from the further heartbreak of losing more patients to this virus.
Permanent Secretary for Health Dr. James Fong says a lockdown is not something you just throw in and then think about what to do, you think about what you will do in a lockdown then you institute a lockdown.
While answering a question whether they will consider doing a lockdown like last weekend, Dr. Fong says they are rounding up all the contacts of the nurse from the Raiwaqa Health Centre and her husband.
He says the curfew starts at 11pm and they do have some opportunity to ensure they get some containment plans, and swab the contacts and get more information till 4am.
The Permanent Secretary adds once they reach that point in time, they will start to work out what else they need to do.
Dr Fong further says personally he would like to see the data and see whether a lockdown will work adding that a lockdown has to serve a purpose.
He says they are aware of the side effects of the lockdown - the social problems associated with it and they do not take it lightly.
Fiji currently has 42 active cases of COVID-19 in isolation.
The Head of Health Protection Dr. Aalisha Sahukhan says 9 are border quarantine cases, 29 are locally transmitted cases and 4 cases are under investigation.
She adds the source of transmission for the recently deceased patient is also still under investigation.
Dr Sahukhan says Fiji has done 60,054 lab tests since last year and the daily average is 1,437 tests.
Meanwhile, Fiji’s new border quarantine case is a 22-year-old Tongan national who was repatriating to Tonga from Guyana. She says the patient arrived in Nadi on the 22nd of last month from Auckland.
Dr.Sahukhan says this was the last inbound commercial passenger flight before inbound international passenger travel was halted.
She further says he is a travelling partner of a previously announced border quarantine case.
The Permanent Secretary for Health Dr James Fong says they have protocols in place to separate the positive and negative COVID-19 cases at the Lautoka Hospital.
Fijivillage had questioned Dr Fong if all measures are in place to ensure there is no breakout of cases within the Lautoka Hospital containment area.
The Permanent Secretary says they will also be testing everyone back and forth and people should be tested atleast five times while they are there.
Dr Fong says as they get more positive cases, they will be putting them in isolation.
He says they will continue with this until they get a true segregation between the positives and the negatives.
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