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11 November 2022

Fiji steps up entry conditions amid Ormicron threat

Monday 29 November 2021 | Written by RNZ | Published in Fiji, Regional


Fiji steps up entry conditions amid Ormicron threat
Fiji's international borders reopened on 11 November and tourists are expected to arrive from 1 December. Photo: Supplied

Fiji has strengthened its strict conditions for entry for all travellers from red list countries.

The Government says this move is in response to the threat of the Covid-19 variant of Omicron

The World Health Organisation has declared the new coronavirus variant to be "of concern".

The WHO said the variant had a large number of mutations, and early evidence suggested a possible increased risk of reinfection.

It was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on 24 November, and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.

They are all on Fiji's red list countries. Several countries have now banned travel from southern Africa.

Despite Australia confirming its first cases of the strain on Monday, it is not yet on Fiji's red list.

Two people who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa tested positive on Sunday for Omicron and officials have ordered 14-day quarantine for citizens returning from nine African countries.

From December 1, Fiji will welcome visitors from Australia and the United States.

Fiji's Health Secretary James Fong said they are monitoring the Omicron variant closely as it has been "shown to carry significant mutations that could spell higher rates of transmissibility and virulence.

"We commend South Africa on identifying and publishing the first information on this new variant. So far, field evidence does suggest higher transmissibility.

"However, more study is needed to determine if transmissibility is truly increased if the variant is less responsive to natural and vaccine-induced immunity and if the disease caused by the variant is more severe," said Dr Fong.

Fiji's borders are to reopen to visitors.
Photo: Supplied/ Tourism Fiji

He said a risk assessment of Fiji's Red List and Travel Partner Countries was "developed with the knowledge that new variants of the virus were highly likely to be detected."

Dr Fong said they will also analyse factors such as country vaccine coverage and rates of community transmission.

"We will continue to rely on that assessment process moving forward.

"All travellers in the Red List countries must be fully vaccinated with one of Fiji's approved vaccines.

"They must also undergo escalated pre-departure protocols, which include self-isolation for the five days prior to travel under the oversight of the employer or sponsor and test negative on day 5 and within 72 hours prior to departure.

"On arrival to Fiji, the quarantine period for travellers from red list countries will increase to 14 days with a PCR test done on arrival, on day 5 and day 12," Dr Fong said.

No changes for travel partner states

However, Fiji's government will maintain the entry conditions for all arrivals from Travel Partner Countries (TPC) including New Zealand, Australia and the US.

These requirements include full vaccination with an approved Covid-19 vaccine, a negative Covid PCR test result taken 72 hours prior to departure, a 3-night stay in a Care-Fiji Certified hotel, and a Covid-19 test on Day 2 after arrival.

"The preference of the Health Ministry is that travellers from red list countries go to a listed TPC for ten days prior to travelling to Fiji.

Front-line workers at the swab drive-through in Vunimono, Nausori.
Front-line workers at the swab drive-through in Vunimono, Nausori. Photo: Ministry of Health, Fiji

However, given some international border restrictions, particularly in southern Africa, we understand some Fijian citizens and residents may need to book travel directly to Fiji," Dr Fong said.

"Fiji's Ministry of Foreign Affairs will provide advice on a process for the public to help us by providing information on citizens in southern Africa so those citizens can be registered and assisted to adhere to the strict conditions for entry.

"This new variant is a reminder that for as long as there is a pandemic, Fiji will continue to face a threat from the virus and its variants.

"The most important step every Fijian can take in response to this variant is to become fully vaccinated and encourage others around us to do the same.

"We have one of the highest rates of vaccine coverage in the world -- but Fiji is safest when we achieve as close to 100 percent coverage as possible.

"And we must continue to adhere closely to the other health protection measures we know can limit the spread, including good handwashing, mask-wearing, and physical distancing."

Fiji's Health Ministry is establishing genomic sequencing capacity within the country's Centre for Disease Control to process any positive samples of concern.

Dr Fong said the ministry is also administering booster doses to front-line health officials and will soon deploy booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines to vulnerable members of the public.

As of November 26, more than 90 percent of Fiji's target population are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while 25,878 children aged 15-17 have received both jabs.

There are 15,501 children aged 12-14 who have had one dose of the vaccine.

Residents look on as police check people are wearing face masks in Suva.
Residents look on as police check people are wearing face masks in Suva. Photo: AFP or licensors