Last Updated on 6 months by Riaz Hassan
Q: What is 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?
A. Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses, with six of these viruses known to cause a range of illnesses from the common cold to the more serious Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The COVID-19 was discovered in late December 2019 after an unusual cluster of pneumonia cases was noted in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China.
Q: How does the virus spread?
A: Detailed investigations are ongoing to determine what is the animal source of the virus, however the virus is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, usually when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. A person may also get infected if they touch a surface or object (like a door handle or table) that has the virus on it and then touch their mouth or face. Generally, the virus is only spread when a person is in close contact with an infected person, for example living in the same household or workplace.
Q: Should I worry about COVID-19?
A: Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. However, it can cause serious illness: about 1 in every 5 people who catch it need hospital care. It is therefore quite normal for people to worry about how the COVID-19 outbreak will affect them and their loved ones. We can channel our concerns into actions to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. Firstly, among these actions is regular and thorough hand-washing and good respiratory hygiene. Secondly, keep informed and follow the advice of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services including any restrictions put in place on travel, movement and gatherings.
Q: Can the virus that causes COVID-19 be transmitted through the air?
Q: Can COVID-19 be caught from a person who has no symptoms?
Q: Can I catch COVID-19 from the faeces of someone with the disease?
A: It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment). If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
A: While we are still learning about how COVID-2019 affects people, older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) appear to develop serious illness more often than others
Q: How long does it take for a person to get sick, after they come are infected with the virus (the incubation period)?
A: The incubation period is the time between infection and the onset of clinical symptoms of disease. The incubation period for COVID-19 is currently estimated at between two to 14 days. While people are mostly infectious when they experience (flu-like) symptoms, it may be possible that people can transmit the virus without having any symptoms or before the symptoms appear. However, investigations are ongoing to determine this.
If people infected with COVID-19 are tested and diagnosed quickly and there is a rapid public health response undertaken to reduce the spread of the virus, the chance of further, continued spread of the virus in a community is likely to be low.
Q: What are the symptoms?
A: The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.
Q: How serious is COVID-19?
A: Like other respiratory illnesses, infection with COVID-19 can cause mild symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. For some people it can be more severe and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as, diabetes and heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
A: While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly. WHO continues to monitor the latest research on this and other COVID-19 topics and will update as new findings are available.
Q: Should I be tested for COVID-19?
A: If you develop flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel any country or area affected by COVID-19, you should call the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and tell us about your recent travel, or contact with someone who has recently travelled. They will be able to inform you on next steps and also whether laboratory tests need to be undertaken. If you suspect COVID-19, it is important that you self-isolate at home or your hotel room and avoid public spaces or crowds.
Q: How do you test a person for COVID-19?
A: We have a Centre for Disease Control in Tamavua where testing is done.
Q: Is there a treatment for the disease caused by COVID-19?
A: To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the COVID-19. However, those infected with COVID-19 should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care. Supportive care (e.g. supportive therapy and monitoring – oxygen therapy, fluid management and antivirals) can be highly effective for those infected.
Q: What can I do to prevent the spread of disease?
A: Follow government advisories. (See Appendix 1- Information on restrictions)
Q: How can I help protect myself?
Protection measures for everyone
Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through the Ministry of Health and Medical Services. Many countries around the world have seen cases of COVID-19 and several have seen outbreaks. Authorities in China and some other countries have succeeded in slowing or stopping their outbreaks. However, the situation is unpredictable so check regularly for the latest news.
You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:
● Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water and clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub. Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
● Maintain at least 1 – 2 metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
● Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
● Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
● Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid traveling to places – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease. Why? You have a higher chance of catching COVID-19 in one of these areas.
Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading
- Follow the guidance outlined above (Protection measures for everyone)
- Self-isolate by staying at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache, low grade fever (37.3 C or above) and slight runny nose, until you recover. If it is essential for you to have someone bring you supplies or to go out, e.g. to buy food, then wear a mask to avoid infecting other people. Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.
- If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers. Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.
Q: Does current evidence recommend the use of facemask in Fiji to prevent COVID-19?
A: No. Currently the use of face masks is not recommended for healthy persons. WHO recommends that members of the public only use face masks if they are caring for sick individuals who have COVID-19, or if they have flu-like symptoms.
Limiting the unnecessary use of face masks is important as currently there is a global shortage of face masks, which are critical for use by health care workers.
Q. Is there a vaccine against COVID-19?
A: No. There are currently no vaccines against coronaviruses, including COVID-19. That is why it is very important to prevent infection or contain further spread after an infection with the COVID-19.
Q. Am I protected against COVID-19 if I had the influenza vaccine this year?
A: Influenza and COVID-19 are two different viruses and the seasonal influenza vaccine would not protect against infection caused by COVID-19.
Q: Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating the COVID-19?
A: No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.
Public Health Response and Current Situation
Q: What is the status of COVID-19 cases and spread in Fiji?
A: As of 7 April, we have 15 confirmed cases and all are isolated in Lautoka, Nadi, Navua and Labasa hospitals.
Q: What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?
- Isolation separates sick people with the disease from people who are not sick.
- Quarantine separates people who are well but may have been exposed to the virus to see if they become sick.
Q: Who should be Quarantined?
A: Individuals that have been in high-risk areas for the past 14 days or have been in contact with a COVID-19 infected individual need to be quarantined.
Q: Where should a person be quarantined and what should they do/not do
A: A person under quarantine should stay in their home and have contact with as few people as possible. Quarantined individuals must not leave their home unless necessary. Quarantined individuals must not use public transport or taxis. Quarantined individuals must not attend school or work with other people. Quarantined individuals must not visit fitness centres, swimming pools, theaters, cinemas, shopping malls, or other places where people come together. Quarantined individuals can go for a walk but need to keep at least 1 - 2meter distance from other pedestrians.
Q: What is the purpose of an isolation centre?
A: An isolation centre is used to separate sick individuals from other, uninfected people. At the isolation centre, generally a dedicated ward at a hospital, the patient will be isolated from other patients, and will be provided appropriate medical care. Health care workers will be provided appropriate protective equipment to help protect them from the virus, whilst providing care to the patient.
Q: What is the purpose of a Community Isolation facility?
A: Confirmed cases who at determined low risk and display mild symptoms, may be transferred to a community isolation facility. Community Isolation facility will free up hospital that may be dealing with more serious cases. It is a precautionary measure that helps reduce the risk of a contagious disease spreading. Patients will be restricted to the Isolation facility until they are fully recovered from the virus, then they will be cleared and allowed to re-enter the community.
Q: What is a fever clinic and where are they located?
Q: Has anyone in Fiji gotten infected with the COVID-19?
A: Yes. Currently we have 2 imported cases and 3 locally transmitted cases in Fiji.
Q: Is it safe to receive a package from any area where COVID-19 has been reported?
A: Yes. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.
Q: What should I do if I become unwell with symptoms when returning to Fiji from travel in areas known to have confirmed cases of COVID-19?
A: If travellers returning to Fiji become unwell, they should immediately inform the Ministry of Health and Medical Services through public health officers monitoring the reporting hotlines. The public health officer will be able to inform you of next steps and what to do. It is important that you notify health facilities ahead of time of your arrival, as this will help them limit the spread of the virus.
Reporting Hotlines to contact:
Q: Is it safe to travel to China or other countries where COVID-19 cases have occurred?
A: Members of the public, especially individuals whom are planning to travel abroad, are recommended to check the Fijian MoHMS website and Facebook page for the latest updates on the situation in Fiji and globally, and also check the health authority websites of countries you are planning travel to.
Q: What if I recently travelled to China and got sick?
A: If you were in China or any other country affected by COVID-19, and within 14 days of your return to Fiji, feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:
- Seek medical advice – Go to a nearest fever clinic near you. Tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
- Avoid contact with others.
- Not travel while sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others.
- Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
The Ministry of Health and Medical Services will continue to monitor the developing situation and adapt our advice accordingly.
Q: Need more information on curfews
Q: Need more information on inter-island vessel travel
Q: Need dates for schools/university closure
Q: Need more information on Suva lockdown
Q: Do people need medical clearance after they complete their isolation.
Those requesting for doctor’s certification upon completing the 14-day self-quarantine can get it from their nearby fever clinics and health facilities or request the visiting doctors and nurses. (Preferred is that they visit the nearby fever clinics). Any accompanying documents can be helpful. For Nadi residents, call Nadi numbers provided (two additional numbers for the Western Division in the flowchart).
Q: People inquiring about SOPD clinics, baby clinics.
Health facilities are focusing on emergencies only. They have been given longer dates. For those who have scheduled appointments, they can call their SOPD, baby clinics and ask for a later date.
Q: Need information on lockdown
Any information on any lockdown will be announced by the PM. People need to listen to the latest announcements made by the PM.