Statement by Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Dr James Fong.
After another 2206 tests, we have no new cases of COVID-19 to confirm.
There are 37 active COVID-19 cases in the country, none of them currently have severe illness.
Our contact tracers have spent the past 24 hours working through the travel histories of our seven cases announced yesterday. As the nurse from Raiwaqa health centre (case 128) had her careFIJI app downloaded and activated we have been able to identify 15 contacts using the app. This is another reminder that the app works, and is an important tool in our fight against the virus, please download it and keep your Bluetooth on.
Also as a result of our contact tracing investigation for case 128 we are also asking anyone who attended the Maternal and Child Health Clinic (MCH clinic) at Raiwaqa health centre from Wednesday April 21st to Friday April 23rd, Thursday April 29th to Friday April 30th, and Monday May 3rd to Wednesday May 5th to remain at home and contact 158. We know that the rest of the staff in the health centre have tested negative so far, and the nurse was wearing a mask while at work, however, we need anyone who attended the MCH clinic on those days to please call us.
As I’ve already mentioned, we are engaging the hotel and motel operators in Suva to expand our quarantine capacity to cater for a rapidly-rising number of primary and secondary contacts.
There may be a need to cordon off certain neighbourhoods and communities as screening zones. So far, our testing has not pushed any specific areas past the risk threshold to trigger a lockdown.
There is one disappointing issue I have to share, which a few have raised on social media. We had made an accommodation yesterday to allow people on Viti Levu who needed to return to their homes to enter containment areas. From this morning, we’ve already seen dangerous instances of abuse of that policy, including some people moving from containment zones into non-containment zones, something we explicitly forbid. We are tracking these people as best we can –– it is vital they all self-isolate immediately.
We’ve seen one life lost this outbreak. Still, some people are not taking this situation seriously enough. Our statement, released earlier today, reinforces the tightly-controlled movement that is allowed so that Fijians can return home if, and only if, they reside in a containment area. No other reason for cross-border travel into containment areas is allowed. Including for cleaning services –– a request we’ve actually received multiple times which I cannot believe some people have the audacity to ask the Ministry.
The fact of the matter is, we have measures in force that can work extremely well, but they only work if they are respected by everyone. I’ve gone over this before, but I again want to explain the “how” and the “why” behind our most important health measures.
We are dealing with a virus that can travel from person-to-person through small droplets. It can also travel through the air over short distances.
When an infected person comes in close proximity to others –– particularly when indoors –– the virus has its best chance of spreading to other people. That’s where the virus wants us, in big crowds, close to others, where it can easily jump from host to host.
We wear masks because covering our mouths and noses can impede the virus from spreading. Masks work best when everyone wears them, and when we still practice good physical distancing. Even so, masks do not make spread impossible, only less likely. Handwashing, as well, is a good habit that kills the virus before it infects you. But nothing kills this virus faster than when a person simply stays at home. If you don’t move, the virus cannot move. That is the very reason we enter COVID-positive patients into isolation. We isolate them, we isolate the virus and we stop it from transmitting further.
I also want to speak on the importance of household bubbles. Our personal “bubble” consists of all other people we interact with –– the people who could, potentially, infect us with COVID. These are the people who share our space, at home, at work, on a bus, anywhere we might be. If you share a home with others, and you then interact with people outside of your home, all those new people not only join your bubble, they join the bubble of everyone you live with.
Let me put that in personal terms. This weekend is Mother’s Day. If you live at home with your mother or grandmother, she is in your bubble, and you are in her bubble. If you leave the house to see friends, all of those people you see and speak with add to your bubble, making it bigger. The bigger the bubble, the bigger the risk. Not only for you, but for every other person who shares your bubble with you. So, when you come back home after meeting with friends and you interact with your mother or grandmother again, her bubble gets bigger too. Her risk of infection increases because, essentially, you are bringing all of those people you saw back home with you. Because if even one of your friends passed the virus to you, you can then pass it to your mother or grandmother, someone who is vulnerable.
There are many thoughtless ways this virus can spread to us. A shared cigarette, a short session of grog, a quick kiss, a short hug –– even a handshake. All of these are opportunities for COVID to spread to more of us, infect more of us, and fill our ICUs with more ill patients. The more of us adhere to our restrictions, and respect our measures, the more lives we’ll save.
My teams are stretched very thin at the moment. But even if they all had every hour of the day available –– that is still not enough time to send them into every home and community to make doubly sure our measures are being enforced. We are giving you –– the members of the public –– the information about how this virus spreads. We are telling you what each of you can do to stop it. That knowledge is our advantage, and God has given each of us the good sense to put that knowledge into practice. Those good choices rest with you.
I wish every mother in Fiji a very Happy Mother’s Day. We have to keep our mums safe by staying home. If you do not live with your mother, please do not add to her bubble by travelling to see her. Call instead. I know it will not be easy for some families who are apart due to our COVID restrictions. But I promise that sacrifice today will allow us all to be together again, in good health and good spirits, once our victory over this outbreak is secured.