COVID-19: Health Ministry ready to review public health border measures; two deaths reported

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Fiji’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services says given the high level of the outbreak in China and the possibility of COVID-19 variant formation, it is ready to review some public health border measures.

Ministry permanent secretary Dr James Fong said they had been advised that China was now open for inward and outward travel.

At present, the USA, Japan, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia had announced that all passengers arriving from China to have a pre-departure COVID test.

He said Fiji does not have direct travel from China at present.

“Our data indicate that we have a high level of immune protection given the low impact the current wave is having on admission capacity. The current wave in China is driven by known variants,” Dr Fong said in the ministry’s COVID-19 public advisory.

He said while China and countries that receive passengers directly from China had the ability to surveil for variants, added Fiji also had the in-country capacity now to surveil for variants.

“As such, our current stance is that no new travel restrictions will be put in place, however, we also do not rule out the possibility of travel restrictions in the future,” Dr Fong said.

He said there was a continuing trend in the increase in COVID-19 cases based on case numbers reported to the ministry, positivity rates being compiled from hotel, airport and hospital workers, and absenteeism rates from selected industries and schools.

In its latest COVID-19 update released on January 5, the ministry reported 19 new cases, two reinfections and two deaths.

Of that, 18 cases were reported in the Central Division and one case in the Western Division.

The two deaths were that of a 64-year-old man from Suva who presented to the Valelevu Health Centre in respiratory distress and tested positive for COVID-19; and a 34-year-old Tuvaluan woman who was admitted to CWM hospital with diabetes complications, and also tested positive for COVID-19.

Dr Fong said they had also registered 10 patients who had incidentally tested positive for COVID-19 while admitted to the hospital.

“Correspondingly, we are currently focusing on implementing COVID safe measures around those vulnerable to the severe effects of COVID-19.

“This includes escalating measures in hospitals, old people’s homes and facilities catering for disabled persons.

“As such we expect to escalate screening protocols and masking for staff, patients and visitors. Furthermore, visitor restrictions will be in place.”

Dr Fong has advised members of the general public, particularly the elderly, those with chronic disease, and children with disabilities to ensure they received four doses of the vaccine, and measures taken to ensure they were taken to the hospital early if there was an early indication of feeling unwell, especially with respiratory symptoms.

“Consistent with the experience in other countries that have high vaccination rates, we anticipate a manageable impact in hospital admissions for COVID-19 disease despite increasing case numbers.

“While immune protection from the severe disease remains, there is expected to be some immune escape capability that makes the variant more transmissible. The elderly, those with chronic diseases, pregnant mothers and children with disabilities need to be closely watched in this regard.”

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