Statement by Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Dr James Fong.
We have three new cases of COVID-19 to report. This follows another 1616 tests since yesterday.
These new cases are all linked to case number 136, the gentleman from Saru, Lautoka who presented with COVID-like symptoms to the Natabua Health centre and tested positive on Friday. One of the new cases is his wife, another is his daughter, and the third was a primary contact of his wife. All three have been in isolation since yesterday. The contact tracers are locating and quarantining their close contacts. All other known primary contacts relating to the three have tested negative.
I hope everyone today is watching this announcement from the safety of home. I know some of you have arrived back home for the first time in weeks after we allowed for one-way movement into containment areas for those who were stuck outside of the area in which they reside.
However, there are some people who ignored our restrictions and managed to move from contaminant areas on Viti Levu into non-containment areas. We are locating these people, but not quickly enough. Whoever they are, wherever they are, they must self-isolate, and they must do it now. If you are one of these people, or you know one of these people, call 158. We are not looking to dole out punishment. We are not going to move you back where you came from. But we are going to ask that you self-isolate at home for the next 14 days.
As I made clear from the beginning, this limited movement was only permitted on Viti Levu. Requests to move from Viti Levu to other parts of Fiji, and requests to move from other parts of Fiji to Viti Levu, have all been rejected. I don’t have a timeline as to when that restriction will lift. Everyone should plan to remain where they are for the foreseeable future.
Our FEMAT has set-up the 150-bed non-COVID Field Hospital, with clear patient care flow pathways that allow for patients to be securely moved to other hospitals and healthcare facilities if necessary. We’ll also manage staffing within the field hospital in response to patient demand.
The field hospital will enforce strict COVID screening and security to ensure it is a COVID-free facility, though it does have mobile response teams that can travel to treat patients who report COVID symptoms in the Lautoka area –– which is a big boost for our screening exercise in that area.
I want to update everyone on the progress of our screening exercises, not only in Lautoka but nationwide. In just over two weeks we have screened more than 317,000 Fijians through our stationary and mobile screening operations. The speed and scale of our screening works well. We go door-to-door, checking for symptoms and confirming that people have not had close contact with COVID-positive patients. But due to the nature of the virus –– and its 14-day incubation period –– screening once is not enough. A screening is just a snapshot, and a person who shows no symptoms today or tests negative today can show symptoms or test positive tomorrow. So communities that have been screened should expect to be screened again. That is necessary for us to give everyone the confidence that we are doing all we can to identify people who need to be isolated so they cannot spread the virus and where, if necessary, they can receive proper treatment.
We’re listening very closely to the story our screening and testing is telling us. It may extend further, and measures themselves could become more stringent. At the moment, no policy response is off the table –– including targeted lockdowns of certain areas and even a lockdown of the whole of Viti Levu. If this happens, it will be announced with a deliberate, well-informed, and detailed plan.
For now, our investigations around new cases in Suva, Nausori, and Lami have indicated those containment areas should be maintained for at least another week. Through the ministries of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport and Economy, we are working with industry partners on COVID-safe risk assessments to explore how and when some industries may operate in carefully-managed ways within containment areas. The careFIJI contact tracing app will be paramount to these operations. Every Fijian must install it and keep it running, every business should encourage its employees and customers to do so. With every new case, our contact tracers are stretched further and the imperative of widespread adoption of careFIJI grows. We’ll be announcing early next week how our containment protocols will cater for more COVID-safe essential business operations.
I am happy to announce that we will be lifting the lockdown of Wainitarawau Settlement in Cunningham Suva and the Vuniwai Settlement in Taveuni from 4am tomorrow morning.
My Ministry is tasked with upholding the health and wellbeing of all Fijians, from COVID and from a range of other threats. If and when we do lockdown, that will occur alongside a whole-of-government and whole-of-society effort to mitigate the economically-devastating impact that lockdowns have in Fiji and around the world.
Today, we’re updating the public on our COVID-19 situation through a national announcement. Moving forward, we’ll be hosting press conferences several times a week to field questions from members of the media, particularly following major policy announcements.
I’d like to close with a special thank you to the mothers on my teams who have worked tirelessly through this weekend –– particularly those living and working in Lautoka Hospital. Their time away from family is a huge sacrifice –– and they’ve made it proudly to help keep the rest of us safe. There are other mothers who are quarantined or who are in isolation. Their time away from home is no less painful, and no less important for the nation’s safety. The rest of us should not take our time at home for granted. It is where many wish they could be. It is where we all ought to be as often as possible. So please, let’s respect the sacrifice of the hardworking mothers of Fiji, today and every day, by showing them solidarity through our adherence to the measures meant to protect us.
Thank you, and Happy Mother’s Day.