COVID-19 Fiji: Not clear whether Omicron spreads easily between persons – Dr Fong

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Fiji’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services permanent secretary Dr James Fong says it is not yet clear whether the new COVID-19 variant Omicron is more transmissible compared to other variants, including Delta.

He noted this in his COVID-19 update last night following the advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“There is some reported field evidence of increased transmissibility in South Africa, however, epidemiologic studies are underway to understand if it is because of Omicron or other factors,” Dr Fong said.

“The public is advised that if indeed the virus is more transmissible than delta, then it will be inevitable that it gets to Fiji.

“In this instance, the current steps we are taking do not change; we work on better positioning ourselves to deal with a third wave, irrespective of whether it is through Omicron or the current Delta variant that is endemic to Fiji.”

Dr Fong also made reference to the severity of disease, saying preliminary data “is suggesting increased rates of hospitalisation in South Africa.”

However, he added that may be attributed to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of a specific infection with Omicron.

“South Africa and the nearby region is poorly vaccinated region and an increase in transmission of COVID 19, whatever the variant, will increase the number of hospitalisation.

“Understanding the impact of the Omicron variant on disease severity, especially in the vulnerable, will take days to several weeks.”

Dr Fong said the ministry had continued to review findings released by international experts on the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services has reported 12 new cases of positive COVID-19 infection since the last update was announced last Friday (November 26).

Ministry permanent secretary Dr James Fong said four of the new cases were recorded on 27 November and eight reported on 28 November.

Dr Fong said overall, for this second wave, there had been 52,436 cases recorded, with 71 percent of the cases from the Central Division, 28 percent of the cases from the Western Division, and 1 per cent of the cases from the Eastern and Northern divisions.

No COVID death was reported.

There have been a total of 696 deaths due to COVID-19 in Fiji, with 694 of those deaths during the outbreak that started in April this year.

The ministry has also recorded 604 COVID-19 positive patients who died from serious medical conditions they had before they contracted COVID-19.

SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS