Statement by Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Dr James Fong.
Since yesterday, we have been investigating the potential for further exposure of COVID-19 in the Fiji CDC. Our medical and laboratory staff have not registered positive test results at this time, however, we are in the process of deep cleaning and decontaminating the centre in line with advice received from the reference laboratory in Melbourne. As a result, there will be no testing onsite for at least another 24 hours.
The Fiji CDC is where we process the vast majority of COVID-19 tests. With the facility temporarily offline yesterday, the volume of our testing has decreased. Though testing has continued at Tamavua Twomey Hospital, CWM Hospital, Labasa Hospital and Lautoka Hospital. Based on that testing we currently have one new case of COVID-19 to report. This new case is a household member of the Lakena cases reported earlier, and he was already in isolation at Navua Hospital when he registered a positive result. Given his first test upon entering quarantine was negative, we do not view him as a high-risk case for wider transmission.
The CDC handles the bulk of our testing, and we’re focused on bringing it back online as soon and as safely as possible. Regardless of the temporary lull, we expect in swab processing, it remains vital that we use the next four days to identify and swab the contacts of existing cases in Suva and Nausori. That is much easier when we know everyone is securely at home. And until we have a clearer idea of the extent of transmission in the Suva-Nausori area, this lockdown serves the dual purpose of putting a firm halt on further spread. There may be community cases we do not know about. Keeping these potentially-positive people at home is the safest course of action. So the lockdown of Suva and Nausori is still scheduled to begin tonight at 11pm and end at 4am on Wednesday the 19th of May.
We’re going to use that window to trace and swab. Those are the marching orders Ministry-wide. Trace. Swab. Repeat. Those swab results will go for processing at our operational testing sites until the Fiji CDC is fully back up and running. The results of that exercise will inform our next steps. At this stage, we have not made a recommendation either way on the lockdown measures expanding to other areas or lengthening in duration.
If you are living in Suva or Nausori and you find yourself feeling unwell at any point through the next four days. Call 158. A team will visit you, or you may be referred to a screening clinic. Travel is permitted for medical emergencies –– we have made that clear from day one of this outbreak. So everyone can receive treatment if they need it, that has always included kidney dialysis patients who need to travel to receive life-sustaining treatment.
The Ministry of Economy has announced the details of food ration delivery during the lockdown period. From this Sunday, the 16th of May, at noon, Fijians living in Suva and Nausori who genuinely require an emergency food supply can call star-161-hashtag. Applicants must provide their name and other details, including their street address. As the Ministry of Economy has made clear, requests received before 12pm on 16 May 2021 will not be registered.
For the rest of Viti Levu, the new curfew hours from 6pm until 4am come into effect from Saturday. Our regular advice applies as always: wash your hands often and well, wear a mask and maintain physical distance if you have an essential reason to leave your home, and make sure you have careFIJI installed with Bluetooth turned on. For the most part, you should be at home as well. Stay home, Home is where the heroes manning hospitals and health centres, guarding containment area borders, and running tests at the CDC and our other laboratories all wish they could be. Instead, they are working to keep us safe. Honour that sacrifice. Stay home, save lives.
For Suva and Nausori, this lockdown must be decisive. It can be if everyone cooperates. The Fiji Police Force will be enforcing the stay-at-home order on the streets. But the Police cannot be in every community. They cannot stop every needless and potentially deadly interaction between different households. Only you –– those living in Suva and Nausori –– can hold yourselves accountable every hour of every day of this lockdown. I’d bet that some of you will receive a call or a text asking you to come over, hang out, or otherwise violate the lockdown measures. Don’t do it. I’m telling you now –– those asking you to break your bubble do not really care about you, they certainly do not care about the country. Ignore them. If you see gatherings of any size, report them. Those meet-ups can wait until they no longer put lives at risk. Keep your bubble small. Keep yourselves safe. Keep the faith, Fiji, in science and in each other.