New case in the North inevitable as travel restrictions gradually eases

Beginning today, all travels from Vanua Levu to Viti Levu will not need to register or obtain a pass from the Ministry of Health, but will need to do so for the return trip likewise every other travellers from the main land, health authorities confirm.

Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dr James Fong said they will gradually increase the number of travellers to Vanua Levu as vaccination rates improve. As of Monday, 18 October, North vaccination coverage rate stood at 91.8 per cent for the first dose and 75.1 per cent for dose two.

“We are continuing the process of normalizing movement between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. The Registration and MOHMS pass process will be maintained with regards to travel from Viti Levu to Vanua Levu to ensure that the travel is documented for contact tracing, a negative pre-departure test, and vaccination status is verified, and the travel caseload to the North team is kept manageable,” Dr Fong said.

“All these factors are important to both preventing and being able to contain Sars-CoV 2 transmission in the North. The public is strongly advised to only do a pre-departure test only after your registration number is obtained. Also note that given the increasing vaccination rates, daily traveling quotas to the North are being increased and we will be transitioning to self-monitored home quarantine.”

Dr Fong adds that the in preparation for easing of restrictions in the North, the ministry has remodeled the health service provision in the division starting with beefing up its quarantine capacity.

“We have a registration and pass issuance process that will facilitate our ability to maintain oversight over both home and facility-based quarantine.  Each traveler will be provided with the rules relating to quarantine and punitive measures will be applied if there is a verified breach in any of the quarantine conditions.”

The ministry has also ensured community surveillance through test trace and track protocols are being escalated to help identify and contain any outbreak early, seen to the registration and line listing of vulnerable persons especially in poorly vaccinated areas, ensured preparations for the monitoring of positive cases and vulnerable persons to ensure better access to appropriate care plans as well as review and strengthen  clinical care protocols for the severe disease.

“The Ministry of Health and Medical Services Communication team together with our multi-agency community engagement team are working with community leaders to identify and strengthen mechanisms that will facilitate the monitoring of vulnerable persons and persons with COVID like symptoms and help encourage them toward timely engagement of health care services so that medical teams have a greater opportunity to provide timely treatment.”

Dr Fong warns that even with the precautions that have been put in place with this relaxation of the re-entry protocols, the ministry expects cases to occur in the community of the Northern Division with the movement of people from Viti Levu.

“The key is for this movement to be into a highly vaccinated population in the North as the vaccines are very good at preventing severe disease and death. The expectation is that the North will report cases in the community, but large numbers of people with severe disease will be prevented because of high vaccination coverage.”

Dr Fong also reminds the people in the North that together with vaccination, COVID safe measures should be adhered to at all times adding that people need to avoid contained spaces and crowds.

“The key to avoiding future restrictions and lockdowns is for the public to remain cautious about how they engage in the greater freedom they will enjoy.”

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