Response strategy changes, severe cases take priority: Fiji Health Ministry

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Only severe cases of COVID-19 in Fiji will now be entered into isolation centres while others who do not display severe symptoms will have to isolate at home.

Permanent Secretary for Health, Dr James Fong said their resources are limited and their response must now be targeted to where it is needed most.

“Over the next few weeks, as cases increase, our isolation capacity will become severely tested. As that happens we need to identify and treat those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. This is why moving forward, our isolation facilities will be dedicated to patients who are most at risk of becoming severely ill or dying from the virus.”

He said more than 3,000 people who are currently in home isolation or dedicated facilities are expected to recover.

The priority now is to care for those who become severely ill and those who may die from COVID-19.

A new team has also been set up at the ANZ Stadium in Suva to help transport patients who become severely ill, from homes or isolation centres to COVID care facilities.

The Ministry has also set up a new toll-free number 165 in case someone in-home isolation develops severe symptoms.

Based on these new response strategies, the Health Ministry will need to redirect its manpower.

“This phase of our response requires that we move our personnel from the field into ministry offices so that they can check in with patients remotely. It saves time by allowing us to check in with more patients so that there are fewer delays in flagging a case of severe disease. We are also supplementing internal staffing with final year medical and dental students from FNU.”

Dr Fong confirms they have made provisions for more beds in Laucala Bay Suva in anticipation of increasing cases of severely ill people.

“We are also establishing an intermediate COVID care facility at the National Gymnasium with at least 50 beds for patients who develop severe symptoms. If need be, we have identified additional space in the areas to expand the capacity if necessary.”

Those at high risk include people over the age of 60, those with medical conditions including hypertension, diabetes, heart or lung disease, chronic kidney disease, cancer or those who are obese.

Dr Fong said as many as 80 people are at risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 when infections reach a peak.

He said their projections indicate that the highest daily cases could reach 800 for the whole of Viti Levu.

With the Central Division being the hot-spot for the outbreak, half the total infections and severely ill cases will emerge from the Lami to Nausori containment zone.

“If we look at keeping the outbreak within the Central Division where you have half the population, then one would estimate that at its worst we would get 400 cases a day. Then you calculate that 20% of them will be sick, you can see that we will have a huge number of sick people for as long as we are not able to maintain some degree of control over the virus.”

Dr Fong said their strategy is not about eliminating COVID-19, but suppressing the numbers until the vaccine can take over in protecting the population.

The Permanent Secretary said the seven-day average daily test positivity currently stands at 8.9 percent.

156,924 samples have been tested since April this year.

SOURCE: FBC NEWS/PACNEWS