Fijian Government steps-up entry conditions for red list countries in response to Omicron variant

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The Fijian Government has strengthened its strict conditions for entry for incoming travelers from red list countries in response to the newly-reported Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“We’re 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 Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services Dr James Fong.

“The process of risk assessment for our red list and Travel Partner Countries (TPC) was developed with the knowledge that new variants of the virus were highly likely to be detected. It analyses factors such as country vaccine coverage and rates of community transmission. We will continue to rely on that assessment process moving forward.”

For Fijians located in red list countries, which have always included the Southern African States, the measures for incoming travelers are as follows:

1. Travellers must be fully vaccinated with one of Fiji’s approved vaccines;

2. Travellers must 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; and

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

The Fijian Government will maintain the entry conditions for all arrivals from Travel Partner Countries, which include requirements such as full vaccination with an approved COVID-19 vaccine, a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken 72 hours prior to departure, a 3-night stay in a Care-Fiji Certified hotel, and an additional COVID-19 test on Day 2 after arrival.

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

The 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 with 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% 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.”

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is currently establishing genomic sequencing capacity within the Fiji Centre for Disease Control to process any positive samples of concern.

The Ministry is currently administering booster doses to front line health officials and will soon deploy booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable members of the public.

SOURCE: FIJI GOVT/PACNEWS