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Covid-19 in Fiji: Children among the dead, 205 new cases confirmed

Friday 27 August 2021 | Written by RNZ | Published in Fiji, Regional

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Covid-19 in Fiji: Children among the dead, 205 new cases confirmed
Fiji hospital Photo: Supplied/Fiji MOH

Two children are among 11 people who have died from Covid-19 in Fiji as the Government also confirmed 205 new cases for the 24 hours to 8am on Friday.

That compares with 423 cases and six deaths the previous day.

Health Secretary Dr James Fong said the children's deaths showed a new picture of how the virus is spreading in the community.

"The death of a child is always terrible and sadly Covid-19 does not discriminate. Whilst we know children are at significantly lower risk of suffering severe Covid, unfortunately as we continue to see the virus spread in our community, we will see children being infected and some tragically dying from the virus.

"This is why I cannot reinforce enough that while Covid-19 vaccines are critically important, we must all continue to practise other Covid safety measures if we want to see a drop in cases in our community.

"This means wearing a mask properly, keeping a physical distance from others outside our household, washing our hands regularly and avoiding crowds.

"Without these measures and high levels of vaccination coverage, we can expect to see Covid continue to spread in our communities and find those who are most vulnerable."

Unfortunately, Dr Fong said the situation in the Western Division was getting worse.

He said they were seeing an intensifying outbreak in the west.

He said while there was drop in infections in the past 24 hours, they were concerned at the location of these cases.

"We are now managing outbreaks in multiple locations across Fiji, including in some remote areas with limited healthcare infrastructure."

Outer islands response

Dr Fong said the virus has spread beyond Viti Levu to Kadavu, Malolo and Naviti islands.

He said 29 of the latest cases were reported on Kadavu which now has a total of 164 positive people on the southern island.

There remains 23 active cases on the tourist holiday hotspot Malolo with investigations and further testing of contacts continuing.

"We have dispatched a 55-member response team to Kadavu this week to assist with containment efforts on the island and offer treatment for those who develop severe disease.

"In response to the situation on Malolo Island, we have deployed a public health team to rapidly map out a plan to contain the virus and also identify community members who are most at risk of severe disease.

"To ensure we are allocating our health resources best, all operations in Vunibaka are to stop immediately."

Dr Fong said for Somosomo Village on Naviti, the Ministry expects the impact to be more severe.

Over the weekend we will be deploying a team to Naviti to develop a plan to increase our capacity to provide critical care to patients, he said.

This included putting in place protective measures for those most vulnerable on the remote island.

"Unfortunately, our investigations and deployment to Kadavu, Malolo and Naviti have been delayed due to bad weather conditions.

"Over the coming days, we hope to see quick measures being placed in these new areas of concern."

Northern Division response

Namara Tiri Settlement on the second largest island of Vanua Levu in the north has been placed in lockdown.

Dr Fong said checkpoints will be set up at the two-road entry points into the settlement.

"The Nabouwalu index case - the first Labasa case we confirmed - is in stable condition and family members continue to test negative for the virus. All primary contacts' exit swabs have also returned negative.

"As regards to the three positive cases in Namara Tiri, we have established 60 primary contacts. All have been swabbed and have returned negative results. There are ongoing investigations to verify the final number of contacts.

"Screening teams are sweeping the containment zone and have collected 84 swabs. Screening and swabbing are also being conducted at vaccination sites and all health stations in Labasa Town."

Dr Fong many families in the Namara Tiri lockdown area are low-income earners and are heavily impacted by this lockdown.

He said this was why the Ministry would provide essential food and supplies to households in the lockdown area, with "our teams making sure that Covid-19 safe measures are put in place when delivering these items.

"Our contact tracing teams have identified the places where the second Covid-19 case went, and because of this, the Labasa town area will be placed under restricted movement.

"The reason for this is to reduce the risk of the virus spreading out of this area, as well as allowing time for our health teams to undertake screening of the local population."

New restrictions

* There's a curfew from 8pm to 4am (If more cases are detected, these hours may change).

* Until further notice, all persons in a public place in the provinces of Bua and Macuata, must wear a face covering, except with reasonable excuse. Children under 5 years are exempt from this requirement.

* Essential businesses can remain open, but must apply strict Covid-19 protocols. They include supermarkets and shops selling food, banks, pharmacies and the National Provident Fund office. Restaurants can only open for delivery and takeaway services, no in-person dining.

* Other businesses, such as factories and shops, can remain open but must ensure that vendors and the businesses follow strict physical distancing. Customers in queues must be spaced two metres apart and no crowding. Customer-facing businesses should limit customer capacity to 50 percent.

Dr Fong said businesses that do not manage these risks with the Covid-safe plans will be shut down.

He said within the Labasa Town area, higher-risk businesses such as gyms, movie theatres, video gaming shops, cyber cafes, taverns, bars, billiard shops and amusement arcades must close for at least the next 14 days.

"We know that when applied and followed by the public, these strict containment measures are successful in reducing the spread and allow our health teams to identify and isolate people who may have been infected with the virus.

"In the North, this will buy us the precious time needed to allow our vaccination teams to reach all eligible adults for vaccination, in particular those most at risk of severe disease.

"We are also strengthening our network of Northern screening clinics and encourage anyone who has Covid-19 symptoms to visit one immediately.

"We request that if people have these symptoms they do not go to their normal health centre as this puts others individuals at risk of the virus."

Fiji now has over 20,000 active cases in isolation. The death toll is at 479, with 477 patients dying during this latest outbreak that began in April.