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Press Statement

COVID-19 Update

Sunday 30th May, 2021

Statement by Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Dr James Fong.

We recorded 18 new cases yesterday and another 23 new cases so far today. All of these cases are linked to existing clusters.
The 18 cases from yesterday are linked to the following clusters:

-Narere cluster – 9
-Waila cluster – 5
-Muanikoso cluster – 1
-Navy cluster – 1
-Korociri Nadi – 2
The two in Nadi are linked to each other and are from the Korociri Settlement near Nawaka village, which is now under lockdown.

The 23 cases today are as follows: 15 are part of the Navy cluster (including 1 from Nadonumai in Lami, and 3 from Khalsa), 7 are part of the Waila cluster, 1 is part of the Nadali cluster.

We can now confirm that all 46 cases announced on Friday were generated from known clusters. The 3 that were under investigation are now known to be from the Navy cluster. This is reassuring in that the cases coming from our screening areas and tests coming from non-screening areas remain negative.

We have recorded 401 cases in Fiji since the first case was detected in March of last year, with 164 recoveries and 4 deaths. There have been 331 cases since this outbreak started in April. Over 60,000 COVID-19 tests have been conducted since this outbreak, with over 103,566 since we started testing early last year.

There were 3 recoveries yesterday, which means there are now 233 active cases. 2 of the active cases are in Nadi, and 231 in the Suva-Lami-Nausori containment zone. 2 of the current active cases are considered severe and are admitted at the CWM Hospital.

As regards the cases in Nadi: Before yesterday, the last case recorded in Nadi was on May 12. This means that the Nadi containment zone went more than 1 incubation period of 14 days before registering another case, despite high levels of testing. But we knew this was not long enough. We always expected that we might see cases emerge again in Nadi and Lautoka.  We were never COVID-free; we could only contain the virus. We have seen this experience replicated in many countries around the world; where certain areas go through a prolonged phase of no cases and then one case suddenly emerges. We have seen this same theme play out on the world stage as well – countries that were seen as success stories in containing the virus (Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Mongolia)  have recently had to contend with large outbreaks. This highlights the point: no country is safe until every country is safe and for Fiji, nowhere is safe until everywhere is safe.

This is why we must emphasize that there is no ‘us against them’. Just because you don’t have cases recorded in your area does not mean that you are safe. It is not Suva against Nadi or other parts of Fiji. We are all in this together, and we must combine ALL our resources to stop the virus where we know it is spreading. Our health teams know this. And this is why we had health staff from Labasa and Suva assisting in Lautoka during the sequestration of Lautoka Hospital. Now, with the lifting of the sequestration, those same staff are coming to help in Suva.

In the same vein, as our operations move on we will need to create more quarantine and isolation facilities. I ask that the general public help us by accepting these facilities in or near their communities and understand that these facilities are safe.. They are carefully controlled and pose no danger. Quarantine and isolation facilities are a necessary part of our battle to be COVID-contained, and we need them.

Our strategy to contain this virus has been the same
-Rapidly find cases, isolate and test them, find and quarantine their contacts
-Reduce unnecessary movement of people in containment zones and instil COVID-Safe behaviours and practices to stop the virus moving and spreading

The first part of the strategy is largely in the hands of the health teams and our partners – though we also need people to come forward to get tested if they have symptoms or are contacts of cases. But the second strategy is in the hands of everyone. It is human behaviour that finally determines how well we can stop the spread. Our capacity to stop this virus is really in the hands of every Fijian. It only works if the people act with extreme caution and follow the recommended protocols.  We can only limit our vulnerability by promoting, using and enforcing COVID-safe behaviours and practices.

Unfortunately, funeral gatherings are a major concern as regards the spread of virus. Another factor that is promoting spread is that many people are gathering in a limited space such as large families at home, dormitory-style living, crowded settlements and crowded work spaces with poor ventilation.

The response is therefore obvious:
1. Limit the size of funeral-related gatherings. This seems to be the most important strategy now. We need 10 persons only at the burial site. Funeral gatherings before and after the burials need to be discouraged strongly as they generate the most Covid-unsafe behaviour. If they need to happen, we need to limit them to 10 persons or fewer and to no more than 1 hour.

2. Protect your personal space at home and at work by making sure you maintain Covid-safe measures at all times, whether you are in your home or outside your home. Do not engage in any gatherings outside of your home. Avoid crowds and contained spaces, and keep washing your hands.

Grog Drinking: We have been seeing in recent weeks that a number of infected individuals have reported drinking grog with others in their cluster, and we have reason to believe that grog drinking is becoming a significant factor in the spread of the virus. Grog drinking involves close contact with others and drinking out of a common cup, which create perfect conditions for the virus to spread from one person to another. Grog drinking is an important part of our culture and our social life in Fiji, but we must ask that people refrain from sharing grog with people from outside their household during this pandemic period. Don’t invite anyone to your house, don’t go to anyone else’s house, don’t share a bowl with colleagues after work, or during work or in any other place.

Vaccination Update
We administered 36,885 vaccinations from 24 to 29 May: 33,077 first doses and 3,808 second doses. We have administered 136,247 doses in total. A new shipment of vaccines arrived in the country today, and we will be continuing our vaccination programme next week. Once this new batch of vaccines is used up we will have given the first dose of the vaccine to 260,000 people in Fiji in total.

My final message is that I realise that many of you are tired and weary, and that your patience is running thin. Unfortunately, COVID is not tired of you. Because this is a long-term battle, we need to make allowances along the way and change our strategies when necessary to adapt and avoid unintended consequences.

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