STATEMENT FROM THE ACTING PERMANENT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND MEDICAL SERVICES
Today the Ministry of Health and Medical Services is announcing two new border quarantine cases of COVID-19. Both are Fijian citizens who were repatriated from India on July 1st. One is the 37-year-old son of our first border quarantine case announced yesterday. And the second is a 36-year-old female. Like the first two cases, she had been in Chennai India, where she had accompanied her husband who underwent treatment for a medical condition.
The 37-year-old male currently has no symptoms and has been securely and hygienically transferred with his father from the Nadi isolation facility to the Lautoka isolation facility –– which is better suited to offer treatment for severe cases –– as a precaution due to the father’s age and pre-existing medical conditions. The 36-year-old female reported mild symptoms of COVID-19 while in the quarantine facility and her test result was positive this morning at the Fiji CDC. She is in a stable condition and has been transferred, along with her husband, to the Nadi Hospital isolation facility. Her husband is also being tested and tomorrow, we will also be testing all of the remaining 105 passengers –– all of whom currently remain in supervised, government-funded quarantine facilities.
I want to be clear here: Not a single passenger onboard that flight from India is among the public. Every passenger was safely transported to a quarantine facility the moment they arrived, where they have remained under strict RFMF-supported supervision. Every passenger has only engaged with medical staff wearing the proper protective equipment. The flight crew that flew them here is no longer in the country.
Today marks 80 days since our last case outside a border quarantine facility was reported. As highlighted yesterday – the cases of COVID-19 are accelerating worldwide, including in India. We have never closed our borders to our own citizens during this pandemic, and have been receiving repatriating citizens who have undergone mandatory 14-day quarantine in government designated and supervised quarantine flights since March 28th. Since April 23rd all passengers in the quarantine facilities have been tested for COVID-19 before release – even if they do not have symptoms. More than 3000 Fijians have safely come home through this process without leading to the infection of a single person in Fiji.
Fiji’s defenses against COVID-19 have been tried and tested – with our first 18 cases and now with these border quarantine cases. What we have shown, and need to continue to demonstrate, is that we have the systems and processes in place to continue to contain COVID-19 and prevent spread into our communities. We have seen breaches in other countries with similar border quarantine systems and have noted the lessons learned. Like other countries that have been successful in containing COVID-19: as long as we continue to welcome back our own citizens from nations with large-scale outbreaks we should expect to find cases at our border. This is the new normal – because we cannot turn our back on our own people. We must not lose sight of our humanity, even in difficult times. More importantly, our healthcare system –– supported by our disciplined forces –– is proven to be able to manage these cases without risking community infection.
I will re-emphasize here: so long as our border quarantine protocols are upheld there is no risk to the Fijian public from these latest border quarantine cases.