Fiji records four new covid-19 cases, Health Ministry awaits 11, 000 swab tests

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Fiji has reported four new cases of COVID-19, and all cases are close contacts of existing cases from the Nadali cluster.

These cases were confirmed after running more than 2500 lab tests Monday.

Ministry of Health and Medical Services permanent secretary Dr James Fong said because of a steadily rising number of cases, they were concerned that Nadali – located just outside Nausori – had become a source of widespread COVID transmission.

“We have cordoned off the entire Nadali area as a screening zone, meaning no one is allowed to leave Nadali until we screen, swab, and clear everyone in the area. Those who need to return to the area may do so provided they do not leave,” Dr Fong said in his national COVID-19 announcement last night.

In relation to the two patients who were admitted into intensive care Monday, Dr Fong said both patients were responding well to treatment.

He said their teams were attending dutifully to those patients and providing them with the best possible care.

Dr Fong said the Ministry have placed 7,888 contacts in Suva and Nausori under quarantine.

“This is the largest number of active contacts we have ever identified.

“We don’t measure success solely by the number of contacts in quarantine, but these are important markers of progress. They represent Fijians at risk of infection. Identifying them and isolating them ensures that chains of transmission were broken before they could extend, it means clusters were thwarted before they exploded beyond our control.

“Those quiet victories against this invisible enemy were only possible thanks to the public’s cooperation and support through our four days of strict lockdown. Thank you Suva, thank you Nausori –– your cooperation has paid real dividends for the health of the nation,” said Dr Fong.

He said the Ministry have more than 11,000 swab results yet to be processed.

“Tracing is half of the containment equation, and my teams deserve high marks for their efforts in that regard.But we are tracing much faster than we have been able to test due to the recent issue at Fiji CDC.

“We have more than 11,000 swab results yet to be processed. We are triaging our testing –– which means we are prioritising the swab results from the highest risk individuals. But until we know more, we have 11,000 reasons why we can’t rollback more restrictions. We simply have to run many, many more tests.

“In the midst of last year’s COVID-19 outbreak, we ran 776 COVID-19 tests in the entire month of April. In other words, something like 25 tests per day. Before this outbreak our testing had grown to about 250-300 per day. And then before the temporary shutdown of Fiji CDC over the weekend we were testing at an average of 1785 samples per day. Relative to our population, that puts our daily testing rate on par with the current rate of testing in Australia and New Zealand i.e. 1-3 per 1000 population per day. And we have plans to expand our testing further –– much further,” said Dr Fong.

He said Fiji have 28 new Genexpert machines received Monday that are being deployed nationwide.

“Assuming they run 24/7, our total testing capacity will rise to at least 3,000 tests per day.

“While that full capacity gets up and running, we will be sending the backlog of swabs to a private lab in Australia on Thursday, with the results expected by this weekend. We thank the Australian Government for their support in this endeavour.

“This outbreak is more serious than anything we’ve faced before. This will not be a 30-day war. The variant is more transmissible. The clusters of cases are larger and more widespread. And I can sadly promise you that today will not be the last day that we announce new local cases. We may have found thousands of contacts, but it will take many more days of testing to know how many people may be positive and how our containment strategy must evolve in response,” said Dr Fong.

With the high-risk known contacts under quarantine, the 24-hour curfew for Suva and Nausori was lifted at this morning allowing for limited movement in a highly-controlled fashion.

Dr Fong said Suva and Nausori will again become two separate containment zones.

“As is the case for the rest of Viti Levu, the 6pm until 4am curfew will apply,” Dr Fong said.

“Supermarkets may open. Banks may open. Pharmacies may open. Restaurants may offer takeaway and delivery services only. Save for these purposes, movement should be avoided as much as possible, and mixing between different household bubbles should not happen at all.

“Please send only one member of your household outside at any given time.

“Do not bring children out of the home. If you are the member of your household who leaves, wear a mask and wear it properly and maintain a physical distance of 2m from others.

“Make sure you have careFIJI installed, with Bluetooth turned on. Wash your hands often. And immediately after you finish your trip to the supermarket, bank, or pharmacy, go straight home.

“That’s not an excuse for anyone to be outside without good reason. If you need food, get it and go straight back home,” said Dr Fong….PACNEWS