COVID-19 Fiji: An outbreak with severe cases in the maritime will be devastating, please avoid unauthorised travel: Health

Two people who travelled without proper approvals to Malolo Island are among 302 new coronavirus cases announced today, in the second consecutive incident of unauthorised maritime travels resulting in coronavirus infections, that health authorities warn poses dire consequences for those who live in the maritime islands if the practice continues.

The two were found out after testing positive in Cubi settlement, an investigation into which also established that the two had travelled to the island from Viti Levu.

They have since been isolated as investigations continue, but PS Health Dr James Fong is pleading with everyone to refrain from travelling to and from the maritime islands until all eligible persons in maritime islands are full vaccinated.

“The remoteness of the maritime islands, and their limited resources, mean that any outbreak with severe cases will be very challenging to manage,” Permanent Secretary for Health Dr James Fong said. “We need the people in our maritime islands fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to help protect them from severe disease and death¬†before any movement occurs beyond the current controlled repatriation.”

The scenario unfolding on Kadavu island is a case in point. From one case in one village on 16 August, growing to 135 cases across three villages seven days later, the situation on Kadavu is such that Fijian authorities are expecting severe diseases and deaths. This is largely compounded by the island’s low vaccination coverage. With a population of a little over 10,000, a little over 5000 individuals are eligible to receive the vaccine. Kadavu has only managed to administer the first dose of the vaccine to 24.3% of the eligible population.

On Kadavu, Dr Fong said their clinical scoping team have put together a plan that will help escalate the ministry’s response to the expected wave of severe disease and deaths, although he admits it will be a challenging exercise.

“The team is expected to depart for Kadavu over the next two days. FEMAT response to Kadavu will involve both public health and clinical teams. The clinical team will include doctors and nurses from the clinical specialized fields of medicine,” Dr Fong said.

Upon arrival in Kadavu, the clinical team will boost up the public health response on, case identification through rapid diagnostic tests, risk assessment and stratification, COVID awareness, Vaccination coverage and clinical case management based on the clinical care flow pathway. The aim will be to identify the extent of transmission, instituting containment strategies, early detection and retrieval of sick cases and minimizing deaths. They will also work very closely with the teams from other ministries under provincial administrator Kadavu on community engagement.

“The main goal is also to minimize severe and critical cases given the expected challenges in medical evacuation. While they commit towards community response and engagement the logistic teams will be setting up the COVID wards and the intermediate care facilities in readiness for patients with severe COVID-19 disease.”

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