Fiji’s covid navy cluster still rises as nation records 28 new cases

Voreqe Bainimarama
Fiji PM Voreqe Bainimarama visiting the covid-19 testing facility in Suva when it opened in April. Image: Facebook/Fiji govt

RNZ Pacific

Fijian authorities have confirmed 28 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total number of active cases to 349.

The Ministry of Health said last night that 23 of the latest count were linked to existing clusters with 16 of them from the Navy, two from Nawaka, Nadi – one from the main hospital in the capital Suva and four from the anti-corruption commission.

Health Secretary Dr James Fong reassured the public that new cases were not military or health care workers currently engaged in community surveillance and testing.

The remaining cases include three close contacts of a case under investigation from Caubati near Suva that was announced on on Tuesday.

One case is under investigation with no known links to other cases at this stage, Dr Fong said.

The other case from Navosai, Narere was tested at the Valelevu Health Centre in Nasinu with symptoms, and an investigation is underway into any links between this case and other cases.

Dr Fong said the Colonial War Memorial (CWMH) Hospital in the capital Suva continued to operate as authorities analyse how best to secure the facility and still provide medical services to the 300,000 members of Fiji’s population it services.

Extensive swabbing
He said extensive swabbing was conducted at the hospital, and had revealed over a dozen positive cases.

“We are still in the process of evaluating the data, and the results of testing will determine the best way to secure CWMH while continuing to safely provide medical services to Fijians who access health services at the hospital,” he said.

“While emergency services, inpatient paediatrics and obstetrics services continue at CWMH, the hospital has shut down outpatient and special outpatient services as well as the Acute Medical Ward, Acute Surgical Ward and the paying wards; Beqa and ANZ.

“The Maternity Ward and Children’s Wing have developed stringent screening areas in the Antenatal Clinic area and the Children’s Outpatient Department for patients requiring urgent admission.

“All access to and from other parts of the hospital has been closed off to the Maternity and Children’s Wing. CWMH contingency plans for emergency scenarios have been finalised.”

The nearest major hospital on Viti Levu is in Lautoka, four hours away by road.

“We want to reassure the public that all the medical and security forces who have turned positive are not part of the public health team directly engaging the public in our containment and community surveillance programs.”

Navy cluster fastest-growing
The ministry said more than 300 people in Fiji were carrying the Delta variant, first detected in India, and one of the fastest rising clusters was the naval division.

The navy cluster began when an officer contracted the virus at a funeral and later infected members off his ship.

This cluster continues to grow with 31 more cases this week alone, and concerns have been raised over one of the new cases announced earlier from Lami Town near the capital, which had previously been covid-19 free and is located outside of the containment zone.

Lami is now the start of a large containment zone which stretches through the capital Suva, through Nasinu and Nausori towns. That area is home to 300,000 people.

In the Western Division, Nadi Town and Lautoka City have also become one large containment zone.

Earlier, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said that areas with known covid cases (red zones) would become small containment areas where government teams could operate.

“We simply must be able to contain this virus without shutting down large parts of the country again.

‘Stop it in its tracks’
“We have accumulated a lot of knowledge about how this virus is spreading in our country and are going to put that knowledge to work not just to stop it in its tracks but also to recommence economic activity.

“From now the establishment of specific locked areas and teams made up of the ministry of health and medical services, RFMF and Fiji Police sweeping across suburbs and localities in high risk zones screening and swabbing will be a major part of the targeted surgical approach.”

Dr Fong said the increase in cases highlights the point: ‘no country is safe until every country is safe’ and he said for Fiji, “nowhere was safe until everywhere was safe.”

In response to community antagonism particularly after previously Covid-19 towns were reopened, Dr Fong said there was no “us against them” and said not having cases was not indication people were safe.

Contact tracing underway in Fiji.
Contact tracing underway in Fiji. Image: Facebook/Fiji govt

On Wednesday, a high chief in Nadi criticised the Health Ministry’s decision to relocate people in quarantine to their province from the Central Division.

The ministry had said last week that primary or close contacts of cases that tested negative on their entry and fourth-day tests were to serve the rest of their 14-day quarantine in Nadi.

However, since the local transmission of covid-19 cases began from a quarantine facility in Nadi, Tui Nadi Ratu Vuniyani Navuniuci said there was no guarantee another quarantine facility breach would not occur.

‘Not Suva against Nadi’
But Dr Fong said: “it is not Suva against Nadi or other parts of Fiji. We are all in this together and we must combine our resources to stop the virus where we know it is spreading.”

“In the same vein, as our operations move on we will need to create more quarantine and isolation facilities. I ask that the general public help us by accepting these facilities in or near their communities and understand that these facilities are safe.

“They are carefully controlled and pose no danger. Quarantine and isolation facilities are a necessary part of our battle to be covid-contained, and we need them.”

Dr Fong said the ministry’s strategy was unchanged and was focussed on finding the active cases, locate their contacts and reduce the unnecessary movement within the containment zones – with the emphasis on covid-safe behaviour.

“Our capacity to stop this virus is really in the hands of every Fijian. It only works if the people act with extreme caution and follow the recommended protocols.”

Fiji has recorded 536 cases since March 2020, 466 from the current outbreak which began in April while 349 patients remain infected with covid-19.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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