COVID19 Fiji: Mask mandate, individual covid safe measures remain

covid 19 mask protection

Fijian health authorities say mask-wearing and other individual covid safe measures cannot be removed entirely despite the country’s high vaccination rate.

Mask wearing, physical distancing, and ventilation are a must likewise hand washing and cough etiquette, Permanent Secretary Health Dr James Fong reiterated following inquiries from the public on further relaxation of personal covid-safe measures.

“As I have mentioned in the past, COVID-19 is not going to have a clean pandemic endpoint where we close off all chains of transmission and drive cases to zero. COVID-19 has an endemic endpoint, and in Fiji, as is with the rest of the world, societies will have to adapt to living alongside COVID-19 by making some deliberate choices about how to coexist,” Dr Fong said.

“The endemic disease does not mean unmanaged disease. Our current tracking indicates ongoing consequences especially for the vulnerable in society and the delays in seeking and reaching care is a major factor. We also have the global risk of variants developing elsewhere and spreading to Fiji.

“The Vaccines Plus approach is the only means available to us. Until the consequences of COVID-19 are comparable to daily normal risks and the global threat of resurgence is low, the need for masking mandates to facilitate a public health imperative will still be needed.”

As of 8am Friday 18 February, 93.1 per cent of eligible Fijians have been vaccinated, but the ministry continues to emphasize ventilation, masking, physical distancing, cough/sneeze etiquette, hand washing, and isolating from others when showing symptoms.

“Handwashing and cough etiquette are immovable as public health measures. Regular hand sanitization and coughing/sneezing into a tissue or handkerchief, or the bend of your elbow, are healthy habits that protect you and others from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. Isolating yourself, or staying away from others, when you are sick with any respiratory illness is also a good habit to protect others, especially the vulnerable.

Masking, physical distancing, and ventilation are 3 measures that must constantly be present. When one of the measures becomes difficult to apply, implementation of the other two measures must be further escalated. Whatever the scenario, an effective mask must be kept close by you at all times. The current masking requirement of wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth is mandatory in all public places for everyone aged 8 and over, including in public service vehicles remains in force.”

In a setting where physical distancing of 2 meters is difficult, Dr Fong says increasing ventilation and more strict masking practice will be required. 

“We all want to mitigate the risk of unsustainable sick leave levels every time we get a variant, and more variants will come. Mitigating the risk of people getting sick is the best way to reduce further the risk of severe disease and death beyond the protection afforded by vaccination. Promoting good COVID safe principles in a common-sense approach is the best way to start.”

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