COVID-19 Fiji: Engage in freedom of movement responsibly

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Fiji’s Ministry of Health has urged for caution ahead of the next phase of lockdown easing amid concerns for the one third of the population under 18 years who are yet to be unvaccinated and older people with comorbidities who, although have better protection with vaccination, their ability to build up vaccine immunity is not as good as younger and healthier persons.

As the second dose coverage increases and a greater portion of our population become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, local and international travel restrictions and other social and workplace engagement restrictions will be gradually lifted.

Permanent Secretary for Health Dr James Fong said the public must ensure that together with vaccination, we should continue to observe our COVID safe measures and avoid contained spaces and crowds to avoid the risk of increased spread of the virus.

“There will always be people vulnerable to the virus even as we increase our vaccinations coverage. Also of concern is that we will have unvaccinated people in our communities who are also not exposed to the virus, and hence do not have any protection against the disease, and among them are elderly persons and those with serious comorbidities,” he said.

“The potential for transmission in any community will be slower, and the ability to contain the outbreak better, when we achieve a high vaccination rate and also maintain strict adherence to COVID safe measures. So we encourage the public to persist in the practice of COVID-19 safe measures of wearing a mask when leaving your home, washing your hands regularly with soap and water or using a hand sanitiser, practising the correct coughing and sneezing etiquette, maintaining safe physical distancing of 2 meters, ensuring that the careFIJI app is downloaded on your phone and enabled, and last but not least, getting all eligible individuals fully vaccinated. When we do this we not only protect ourselves but also protect all those around us especially the vulnerable, those not eligible for vaccination, and those who are not yet vaccinated.”

Ahead of the planned opening of more industries and workplaces, the ministry reiterates its plea for all workplaces and business places to establish strategies to ensure personal COVID safe practices continue and are monitored and improved and escalated.

“We also remind all businesses and workplaces that there is an urgent need to refocus on improving ventilation and air quality to support their current COVID safe measures. There is increasing scientific evidence that improvement in ventilation and air quality in workplaces is a prerequisite to COVID safe conditions whilst sanitization of all contact surfaces provides secondary support in reducing the transmission of the SARS COV.”

Maximizing natural ventilation by opening windows, doors, and vents when conditions allow (not posing a safety risk), or mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both is important.

Any poorly ventilated spaces in the workplace must be identified and steps are taken to improve fresh air flow in these areas.

The use of portable air cleaners with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters in spaces with high occupancy or limited ventilation is strongly recommended.

  • In buildings with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, it is important to ensure that:
    • These systems are operating in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and design specifications,
    • All regularly scheduled inspections and maintenance procedures are conducted,
    • Maximize the amount of outside air supplied,
    • 4. Where feasible, installing air filters with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 13 or higher.

“While we strive to free the country of the heavy burden of the COVID-19 disease and enter into the new normal way of living, we must move ahead and approach the future with caution and care, as in the words of a leading infectious disease expert, “with our eyes wide open and with a great deal of humility.”

As of Saturday, 25 September, 591,293 or 95.7% of the target population have received their dose of the vaccine and 425,902 or 68.9% have received at least one dose.

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