98 contacts of the two Lautoka Hospital doctors who had tested positive for COVID-19, have been identified, and many of these contacts are their colleagues who work at the same hospital, including doctors and nurses.
Permanent Secretary for Health, Doctor James Fong says the two doctors worked closely together, so the Health Ministry is quite sure one passed the virus to the other.
But he says individually, they both came into contact with many others.
He says as per protocol, these Fijians must be entered into two weeks of quarantine.
Doctor Fong says this has seriously affected their staffing capacity, particularly for medical and surgical services.
He says they have re-deployed staff from other facilities to cover these gaps, but it will be a very demanding two weeks of shifts for the staff at the Lautoka Hospital.
The Permanent Secretary says they are confident they can manage.
Some of the other contacts of the two doctors are patients.
Doctor Fong says given that they were seeking treatment for other ailments, they have identified these individuals as particularly high-risk.
All have been identified, swabbed, and entered into quarantine.
He says neither doctor has been directly linked to other existing cases of COVID-19 but their investigation is still in its early phase, and they are not ruling anything out.
Doctor Fong says they are also testing all the staff of the COVID-19 isolation ward.
He says so far, they have identified 20 close contacts through the careFIJI app that the two doctors had running on their mobile phones.
The app provided that information in a matter of minutes after the doctors uploaded their careFIJI information. Doctor Fong has again encouraged people to download the app and ensure that the phone’s Bluetooth is turned on to make the ministry’s contact tracing as effective and efficient as possible
He also credited the digitalFIJI team for this app’s development as the widespread adoption of careFIJI simply takes the contact tracing team’s work to another level of their effectiveness and efficiency.
Meanwhile the screening and testing continues.
Doctor Fong says 7 COVID-19 patients have recovered while 44 patients remains active.
No new COVID-19 cases were announced but Doctor Fong says everyone should continue to follow the COVID safety measures and more cases are likely to be in the country.
Permanent Secretary for Health, Doctor James Fong says Lautoka may remain a containment area for some time longer after the confirmation of the two Lautoka Hospital doctors getting COVID-19.
Doctor Fong says Lautoka has existed as a containment area now for 16 days and today is day 9 after the recent reset.
He says he knows life in Lautoka is nowhere near normal.
The Permanent Secretary says so far, the contact tracing stemming from these cases is progressing well, and they will make an epidemiological assessment of the cases to determine whether the containment area protocols should continue, and if so for how long.
He says they cannot make that determination at this stage.
If we do happen to contract COVID, we don’t play by a different set of rules.
Those are the words of Permanent Secretary for Health, Doctor James Fong who says the health officials go into the same isolation wards as everyone else, the same wards that their colleagues are responsible for managing.
He says when it comes to these facilities, please trust they care deeply about seeing them run well.
Doctor Fong says they know it could be them, someone they love, or any of the fellow citizens, all of whom they are sworn to care for, who are in those facilities.
He also says that given that they are in the business of saving lives, please trust that these facilities are equipped to offer the best possible care to those who may develop a severe case of the virus.
Doctor Fong says if you do have COVID, he wants to emphasize again, there is no safer place for you to be than in their isolation facilities.
All 4,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses allocated for Suva have been administered while the Health Ministry is expected to roll out the remaining 20,000 doses through the West by the end of this week.
Permanent Secretary for Health, Doctor James Fong says the vaccine deployment went off without a hitch as high-risk individuals, including the elderly, more frontline healthcare workers, bankers, and taxi, minibus and bus drivers came forward to be protected.
Doctor Fong reminds everyone that getting one dose does not mean you are vaccinated, it takes two on a 10 to 12-week timeline.
He says no one in Fiji is fully vaccinated and all of us must practice strict adherence to our health protection measures until such time that we achieve the full immunity of our eligible population.
Doctor Fong says the day they are able to roll these vaccines out everywhere in Fiji into the arms of every eligible Fijian is the day that lockdowns, like the ones we just endured here in Suva, become all but unnecessary.
He says more doses are on the way, please register online, come forward when you have the chance, and help the ministry take Fiji into the post-pandemic future that is already being embraced around the world.
Meanwhile Doctor Fong says they will be adding four new GeneXpert testing machines to their capacity. That will boost their testing capacity by about 480 tests per day.
He says they have been shattering their daily testing records nearly every day. With these machines at their disposal, they expect that streak to continue.
All members of the Lion Heart 7s team who had participated in the Malomalo 7s have been screened by the Ministry of Health.
The team was an area of concern in contact tracing.
The Health Ministry’s Chief Medical Advisor Doctor Jemesa Tudravu says they are thankful for the team for cooperating with them.
He says currently there are 13 community isolation facilities in the country with about 523 bed capacity and 12 percent occupancy.
Dr. Tudravu further says their screening exercise continues throughout the country and in the last 24 hours their mobile community screening teams screened 10,632 Fijians and 370 were swabbed.
Permanent Secretary for Health Doctor James Fong says they have asked Police to be on the watch out for people who are not following COVID safety guidelines such as gathering from different households to drink kava and not following social distancing and Police have been able to deal with some people who are not adhering to these guidelines.
Questions have been raised about people living in informal settlements and Public Rental flats like Mead Road Housing where some residents are gathering to drink kava, not wearing face masks and not adhering to social distancing and allowing their children to move around with other children in the neighbourhood.
Doctor Fong says if a significant proportion of the Fijian population is not protecting itself, that puts everyone else in danger.
He says they suspect they may not be able to get to every gathering and he presumes there must be ways that people gather without the authorities noticing.
Doctor Fong says they are hoping to vaccinate the vulnerable people who live close by.
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