The Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services is closely monitoring the developments surrounding the 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan China. We are also following advice by the World Health Organisation with regards to prevention of spread of this newly identified virus. An advisory group of relevant experts, including the WHO, have met and advised on response to the current situation. In accordance with these recommendations, the response in Fiji will be based on evidence and international best practice, while adapting to our local context.
What is the Ministry doing?
Our response is multilayered with focus on mitigation of spread in Fiji through: early identification of cases at the international borders and in the community, targeted awareness for high-risk persons (e.g those who have travelled to the outbreak area), awareness for the general public to reduce their risk, and readiness of our health staff to respond to any cases.
International border control is one part of our response, and we are working with the relevant stakeholders, including airport authorities and airlines, to enhance existing mechanisms for detecting ill travellers at the international point of entry. As routine procedure airlines are required to report if there are ill passengers on board. If a flight reports an ill passenger, they are assessed by health staff on the ground and managed as appropriate.
There are no direct flights from Wuhan to Fiji. However, we do have flights from Hong Kong and Singapore that may serve as connections from passengers from Wuhan. Therefore, we are introducing additional health screening measures for passengers disembarking from flights that originate in Hong Kong and Singapore. Passengers on these flights will be met upon disembarkation by our officers, who will review the health declaration on immigration cards and request information on recent travel to Wuhan. Passengers who have recently traveled to Wuhan and are suspected to have the disease will be managed according to existing protocols. Travellers from Wuhan who are not ill will be given information about the disease and what to do if they develop symptoms later. These measures may change as the situation develops.
Border health screening may not absolutely prevent cases from entering Fiji because a person who has been exposed to the virus may be completely well for about 7-14 days before they have any symptoms of the disease. Therefore, we have also alerted our healthcare workers in an advisory to keep alert for anyone presenting with symptoms of the disease who has history of travel to Wuhan. Early detection and response will help prevent any further spread in Fiji.
What can you do?
We are advising against travel to Wuhan in Hubei province China.
There is currently no vaccine against this new disease, but we advise Fijians to practice the following hygiene measures that will also prevent infection with a number of other diseases:
- Cover your mouth and nose with tissue, sleeve, or elbow when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue into a close bin after use. Clean hands after coughing and sneezing and when caring for the sick
- Wash your hands with soap and running water if visibly dirty. If your hands are not visibly dirty, wash them with soap and water or use an alcohol based hand cleanser.
The Ministry of Health and Medical Services will continue to monitor the developing situation and will provide updates accordingly.