Amend funeral rites: Health cracks down on COVID19 super-spreader events

Fijian health authorities implored people to amend funeral rites, including religious and traditional customs, that does not align with COVID19 protocols after the majority of recent cases have been linked to funeral events.

One such funeral event, held at a locality that was not disclosed, was associated with 62 cases recorded over five days in Waila, Vunivivi, and among naval officers scattered across Tacirua, Kinoya and Nadonumai.

  • Transmission Timeline (62 cases)
  • 23 May 2021 – 10 individuals from 2 related families in Waila
  • 25 May – 1 naval officer in Tacirua
  • 26 May 2021 – 21 naval officers
  • 27 May – 14 in Vunivivi, and 7 naval officers
  • 28 May – 9 Naval officers (8 in Kinoya and 1 in Nadonumai)

Another funeral event, the first since the start of the current outbreak, which stems from the border quarantine hotel worker was linked to 17 other infections reported between 20 April 2021 and 7 May 2021.

“The death of a loved one is a difficult time for everyone, but people must adjust to the current situation and avoid funeral gatherings. The deceased must be buried, and we must pay our respects and accompany them during their last hours on earth, but we must temporarily find new ways to do this,” Permanent Secretary for Health Dr James Fong said.

There is a need. Unfortunately we now will need to take more stern measures to facilitate enforcement, Dr Fong told MaiTV.

He also urges families to limit graveside services to 10 persons and to limit gatherings before or after the burial to 10 persons or less.

“Our investigations indicate that in some instances, funeral gatherings of 100 were split up into 5 so-called “bubbles” of 20 persons. We need good sense in the common sense space. We need to treasure the memory of those we have lost and when more normal times return we can plan memorial events in which our loved ones are commemorated in a suitable way.”

Chief Medical Advisor Dr Jemesa Tudravu echoed the same sentiments, urging traditional, religious and community leaders to guide their members in temporarily amending the way funerals, traditional, and social gatherings are run to align with COVID19 measures. At the same time, help members understand the need for such stringent measures.

“We are asking all Fijians. This time of the outbreak in Fiji, temporarily, amend the way we conduct our last rites, it can be done without dishonouring our family members, or our traditions,” Dr Tudravu said.

Of the 46 coronavirus infections reported today, nine more naval officers were linked to the funeral event in question, 28 cases linked to the Nadali cluster, three in Navosai which are linked to the Narere funeral cluster, two from Muanikoso, one from the Samabula funeral cluster, and three other cases.

Fiji now has 195 active cases all within the Suva-Nausori containment area. Two (2) of the active cases are currently in the ICU at the CWM Hospital.

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