Health probes link between Ra COVID19 clusters and quarantine facility breach

Fiji’s Ministry of Health is still to find a link between the three positive cases in Ra and the current cluster headed by the military officer in border quarantine, and until investigations confirm otherwise, have classified them as community transmission cases.

The three include cases 110 (53-year-old caretaker of the Ra Provincial Office whose status was announced on Wednesday, 28 April) and his wife otherwise known as case 116 who is also Fiji’s most recent case, having been announced Friday, 30 April. The third patient is a 68-year-od man whose status was announced on Thursday 29 April.

Because authorities are still to determine where these cases originate, they form two clusters, bringing to three the total clusters of active cases.

“We’ve also sent samples of the positive test results of our most recent cases to our reference lab in Melbourne to see if there is a genetic link between these latest cases,” Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health Dr James Fong said. “We are also investigating the possibility that these cases originated from the earlier-announced quarantine facility breach.”

Dr Fong said the belief that the Ra case originated from the border quarantine breaches or the existing cluster is based on the virus’ 14-day incubation period and underlined by the particulars around Fiji’s case 114.

“The incubation period for the virus is 14 days. That means, from the moment a person comes into contact with someone with the virus and gets infected, it can take up to 14 days for the virus to cause symptoms or register a positive COVID-19 test result. Only after we effectively quarantine an individual for 14 days, and then they register a negative COVID-19 test result, do we know that they do not have COVID-19. But that assurance comes from the fact that we are certain that the individual had zero exposure to the virus for every single day of that two-week quarantine period. Because if they came into contact with someone with the virus during that 14 day period – the incubation period resets to another 14 days. 

“At the Tanoa Hotel  — due to the breaches at that border quarantine facility — there could have been infectious staff who transmitted the virus to individuals during their 14-day quarantine period. That means, when we tested them at the end of their quarantine, we could have missed a soon-to-be-positive patient. In the case of those discharged from Tanoa from the 12th of April onwards, that’s exactly what we are concerned may have happened. One of those individuals — case number 114 — has already proved that concern is valid.”

As of Friday, authorities had contacted 93 of the 96 individuals who were discharged from the Tanoa Hotel Quarantine Facility since 12 April. He did not have information on the other three. Dr Fong said the 93 people have been tested and will restart their 14-day quarantine.

“One of these cases may be the source of the outbreak in Ra. We simply won’t know for sure until these restarted periods of quarantine are complete. I haven’t gotten enough information on the other three. But, I did recall that one discussion that we had that some may not actually be in the country. So that is another discussion that I have to confirm again.”

Meanwhile, in Ra, to ensure restricted movement within the province, the Fiji Police Force has set up containment area boundaries for the Dokonavatu-Nanukuloa-Naiserelagi area, and the Naria area to ensure there is no unauthorised movement across the borders.

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