Fiji reports 274 new cases of COVID-19; Expect next wave of virus in coming days – Dr Fong

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Fiji has reported 274 positive cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and Fijians should expect the next wave of the virus to arrive in four to five days from now, permanent secretary for Health and Medical Services Dr James Fong has warned.

He said virus moves in waves and the next wave to come, they expect it will be the most severe yet.

“While the indicators tell us to expect more fatalities in the coming weeks, the science and the experience of other nations tell us that many thousands of lives can still be saved,” Dr Fong said.

“The science behind how this virus spreads tells us that masks, physical distance, and handwashing, can work together to slow the spread.

“The science behind vaccines tells us this protection works extremely well against this variant.

“And our progress in protecting Fijians through vaccines shows us that we are well on our way back to a version of normalcy.”

Dr Fong also advised that they had now paused any further domestic repatriation applications.

He had earlier announced COVID-safe repatriation pathways for Fijians on Viti Levu seeking to return to Vanua Levu and maritime areas.

He said they have some individuals in quarantine awaiting transport to their homes once they are cleared.

For now, Dr Fong said they had paused new applications to the repatriation programme until more quarantine spaces were available.

“In the near-term, we need to keep those rooms open for COVID-positive patients as part of our containment programme on Viti Levu.”

Making reference to the ministry’s online map, he said Viti Levu was now in a situation of community transmission where there are cases throughout the Central division.

“As we’ve made clear throughout the week, our cases are climbing and we are expecting that the daily case average will continue to rise, including an increase in individuals suffering severe COVID-19,” Dr Fong said.

He said they had also identified a new area of concern in Rifle Range, Lautoka.

Dr Fong said this followed a cluster of new cases stemming from a birthday party with more than 14 people in attendance from various locations in Lautoka is a “show of blatant disregard” to national safety measures in place.

“Any large gathering of family may be the last time you see your grandparents or another loved one because they could easily be infected by this highly-transmissible variant, develop severe disease, and lose their lives,” Dr Fong said.

“Don’t forget – it’s not only you and your family that suffer these consequences. The entire community must now go under strict containment protocols.

“And when someone in attendance at an illegal gathering inevitably gets sick and ends up in the hospital, it is the duty of our doctors and nurses to treat them, and we will.

“But that preventable case of COVID-19 strains our healthcare system, making it more difficult for others to be treated.”

Dr Fong urged people – on behalf of the frontline workers and those who are most at risk – to follow the instructions.

“If you miss your family, pick up the phone and call your loved ones; any birthday parties can wait until next year.”

Dr Fong said while there were no new deaths to be reported, he added that there had been three tragic deaths during this outbreak that had occurred before the medical teams had the opportunity to offer treatment.

He said one patient died at home and two others were declared dead on arrival at the hospital.

Meanwhile, Dr Fong said he is truly puzzled by the pockets of resistance to the COVID-19 vaccine among some people.

He said it is known that vaccines had prevented the spread of dangerous diseases for “literally centuries”.

And he adds this vaccine is new because it is combatting a new disease.

“So every vaccine is new, yet the process of vaccination is time-tested and safe,” Dr Fong said last night.

“In the last year, we had successful vaccination campaigns in this country to combat outbreaks of measles and Men-C.”

Dr Fong said their vaccine teams had been fully deployed from Monday this week.

He said 50 per cent of their target population – half of the eligible adults in Fiji – had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are rolling out vaccines at a rate that surpasses most high income countries.

“But our mission is not yet achieved. Our goal is to make a vaccine available to every eligible adult in Fiji and to have those Fijians all accept this safe and effective protection.

“There will always be lone voices sowing doubt, some citing what they believe is their own superior insight or even some revelation from God.

“But let me tell you what I believe. As a man of faith, I believe that I and the doctors and nurses I lead to have a God-given purpose to protect life. I believe that God gave us the ability to develop treatments for disease, and this vaccine has the overwhelming endorsement of the worldwide medical, scientific and religious communities.

“It is helping countries open up around the world, and it will help us do the same.”

He said those who refused to be vaccinated did so at their own risk and at the risk of others.

SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS