PRESS RELEASE

COVID-19 Update 27-12-2021

Last Updated on 6 months by Publishing Team

COVID-19 Situation Update

Monday 27th December

Transmission Update:

Since the last update on 24/12/2021, we have recorded a total of 208 new cases; of which 20 new cases were recorded on 25/12/2021, 109 new cases were recorded on 26/12/2021, and 79 new cases in the last 24 hours ending at 8 am this morning.

This epidemic curve depicts the daily positive cases since the 2nd wave of this outbreak that began in April 2021. Overall, for this 2nd wave, there have been 52,953 cases recorded, with 71% of the cases from the Central Division, 28% of the cases from the Western Division, and 1% of the cases from the Eastern and Northern Divisions. 

Of the 208 cases recorded since the last update, 145 cases were recorded in the Northern Division; 32 cases were recorded in the Western Division, and 31 cases were recorded in the Central Division.

Our national 7- day rolling average is 8 daily cases calculated for 23rd December 2021.

Deaths:

This curve depicts the daily death count by division since the 2nd wave of this outbreak that began in April 2021. Overall, the death rate graphs for the Central and Western Divisions indicate a declining trend. The differences between the Central and Western are similar to the incidence of the daily cases and are likely a reflection of vaccination levels, COVID mitigation measures, and differences in population density.

There is no COVID-19 death to report.

There has been a total of 697 deaths due to COVID-19 in Fiji, with 695 of these deaths during the outbreak that started in April this year. Please note that due to the time required by clinical teams to investigate, classify and report deaths, a 4-day interval is given to calculate the 7 days rolling average of deaths, based on the date of death, to help ensure the data collected is complete before the average is reported. Therefore, as of December 23rd, the national 7 days rolling average for COVID-19 deaths per day is 0.0, with a case fatality rate of 1.32%.

We have recorded 614 COVID-19 positive patients who died from serious medical conditions they had before they contracted COVID-19; these are not classified as COVID-19 deaths.

Epidemic Outlook:

The Ministry of Health continues to monitor the outbreak using indicators such as daily case numbers, hospitalizations, test positivity, and deaths.

Occupancy rates in health facilities, the occupancy rate of ICU beds, death rates, and vaccination coverage are indicators to monitor our health response capacity. While we see a low trend across indicators from our health facilities with increasing vaccination coverage for adults, 15-17-year-olds, and 12-14-year-olds in Fiji the current escalation of cases indicates a need for increased readiness and response levels for severe disease and hospitalization.

COVID-19 cases are increasing rapidly globally and especially so in the European and Americas region and throughout Africa.  The new highly transmissible variant Omicron is contributing significantly to this increase. As such, we anticipate an increasing number of cases from border quarantine facilities. Increased and sustained surveillance and testing at our borders, communities, and maritime islands are vital to monitor and detect COVID-19 cases for early intervention.

There is an increasing number of cases in all divisions which is anticipated to continue to increase, demanding ongoing surveillance for early intervention to mitigate COVID-19 risks.

Public Advisory:

Cases of COVID 19 continue to be identified among travelers into Fiji. All these cases were in fully vaccinated individuals who tested negative on their 3-day pre-departure PCR test and are currently in isolation within hotels, with protocols that have been well-rehearsed in the lead up to border opening and continue to be overseen by MOHMS in the Western Division. All their positive samples will be sent to our partner laboratory in Australia for genomic sequencing. As previously mentioned, if a variant is transmissible enough, stringent border and community measures will only delay the inevitable entry and spread of current and future variants of the COVID-19 virus. To protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our country, we must all get vaccinated when it is our turn and continue to be strict with our covid safe measures.

We are expecting escalated levels of community transmission to be more evident over the ensuing weeks. We are working on the assumption that the Omicron variant is already in Fiji and is being transmitted within the community. We expect that genomic sequencing results of positive samples sent overseas will bear this out.

The widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in the North is evident. This was expected when borders between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu were opened as the North was largely spared the Delta outbreak that affected Viti Levu earlier this year. The main advantage in the North is that >80% of the adult population have been vaccinated plus a significant number of children above 15. They have also been recently vaccinated and as such waning immunity may be less of an issue. Therefore, we expect that there is a high level of protection against severe disease and hospitalization in the Northern Division. Unfortunately, among the unvaccinated, it is unlikely that there is a significant level of “natural immunity” or immunity acquired after infection and thus they remain more vulnerable to severe effects of COVID 19 infection. We also know that immunity may wane faster in some vulnerable people, especially the elderly. Therefore, booster doses for those who were vaccinated earlier in the program, and for vulnerable groups, are essential.

We are also aware that there is an increase in evidence of positive cases in the community within Viti Levu. The feedback from hospital admissions is that we noticed an increase in COVID positive tests even though none of the cases so far are presenting because of COVID disease.  This is an indication of escalating levels of infection in the community. The widespread infections that occurred during the outbreak earlier this year, and high levels of vaccination, in Viti Levu are expected to be protective, however, it is expected that waning immunity levels will be more of an issue.  Vaccine booster doses for those 5 months beyond their second dose is essential.

In Suva, we currently have defined 65 active cases however we are sure that this is an underestimate and there are many more. We have been informed that there was a particular restaurant in which there was a Christmas party and 4 attendees have been found positive. We are currently doing our usual contact tracing operations; however, we are grateful that a number of attendees, some of whom are symptomatic have presented themselves for testing. This is not unexpected as covid safe measures with vaccination reduce the risk of getting infected but do not remove that risk. Current indications are that all those who tested positive are stable and that all attendees of the function were fully vaccinated. We remain very confident that there are other events and gatherings happening throughout the weekend and expect cases to escalate. We also expect that if fully vaccinated many of these persons will have significant protection against hospitalization and severe disease.

The possibility of reintroducing earlier curfews, placing more restrictions on gatherings, and escalating further our masking mandates is always under consideration, however, we plead with the public to demonstrate good sense and apply these restrictions on yourselves without the need for directives and strong enforcement actions to remind you of the COVID Safe measures.

Moving forward, in dealing with the current situation the Ministry of Health and Medical services will:

  1. Continue to focus on vaccination, suppressing transmission, protecting health services, and monitoring the key indicators (cases and transmission/testing and test positivity/severity/hospitalizations/deaths) to inform local decision-making and adjust divisional and sub-divisional action plans.
  2. Continue to roll out the booster dose program for everyone over the age of 18.
  3. Continue to test if you develop any COVID-19 like symptoms that include any of the following: cough, runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, fatigue/extreme tiredness, loss of taste or smell, headache, aches, and pains, sore throat, fever, diarrhea, red eyes, skin rash. Please visit a screening clinic nearest you OR call 158.
  4. Testing will be prioritized for high-risk individuals; vulnerable and symptomatic persons and household contacts. This includes people over the age of 50 years, with underlying health conditions: diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, asthma, are obese or are pregnant.
  5. Our contact tracing protocols are being escalated, therefore, please keep your careFIJI app switched on when you are out of your house and scan your QR code when entering or leaving any premises
  6. Both quarantine (for close contacts of cases) and isolation (for positive cases) will be for 10 days duration and there is no need for exit testing unless a close contact becomes symptomatic during quarantine.
  7. In all the divisions we are setting up intermediate care facilities to cater to those high-risk individuals who are stable but need facility isolation to ensure better monitoring.
  8. We are deploying more human and other medical resources to the North with particular emphasis on ensuring reserve capacity with PPEs, Oxygen, and Oxygen delivery capacity, and essential medicines and consumables needed for management of cases.
  9. We have in place measures to reduce the risk of people with severe COVID-19 dying at home, or coming to a medical facility in the late stages of severe illness. We do this by:
  • Strengthening our ability to register positive cases and vulnerable persons on our line listing,
  • Ensure awareness of the signs and symptoms of severe disease, and facilitate support by us or other personnel to detect early evidence of severe disease
  • Admit vulnerable positive persons to intermediate care facilities if they cannot be well observed in the home setting.
  • Strengthening our ability to provide outreach care and case retrieval

These measures however will require extra resources over and above what we have and as such we will continue to work with our community engagement and various community groups to provide support

The Health Ministry and the health care staff in the North have escalated the measures in place aimed at protecting residents of Vanua Levu from the severe effects of COVID-19. Our health care workers are now on-call to protect lives and mitigate community transmission. They are aided by other government officials from various government agencies in the north in tracing contacts, caring for patients who develop severe disease, and monitoring individuals under isolation. We need the public to cooperate with health care workers and adhere to our COVID safe measures to ensure that this surge in COVID-19 positive cases in the Northern Division is managed and contained.

As for the rest of Fiji, please practice responsible social gatherings and diligently adhere to the COVID-19 safe measures. Be wise about your social gatherings, and postpone them if you can.  During these pandemic times, it is best that you remain at home and celebrate with your loved ones, rather than gather in large numbers and potentially put at risk the vulnerable members of your families; including those who are unvaccinated. We must all assume that those around us are COVID-19 positive and so we must protect ourselves at ALL times.