Fiji’s Permanent Secretary Health Dr James Fong says they have ‘sufficient leeway’ to ensure services at the Lautoka Hospital continue after two doctors who tested positive for coronavirus and their contacts, some of whom work in the hospital as well have been isolated and quarantined.
Dr Fong said a team from CWM Hospital in Rakiraki who were initially deployed to help out at the Ba Hospital could be mobilised to Lautoka. They are also looking to call up doctors who normally work at the Lautoka Hospital, but have not been able to because they live outside the Lautoka containment zone.
While at it, Dr Fong said investigations are ongoing to determine how the infection got there and what can be done to mitigate any further risk.
“We are early into our investigation, but at this stage they do not appear to have any links to existing cases or events of interest, such as the Tavakubu funeral,” he said.
“Also, while they did work in the hospital, they did not work in the isolation ward where they would have had interaction with COVID-positive patients. So while we are very early into this investigation, we must treat these cases as instances of community transmission until it is proven otherwise.
“All contacts within the hospital will be screened, tested, and isolated as appropriate. As you can imagine, this is a massive and complex undertaking for the Lautoka hospital team, and we are providing the support they need. This includes sending in medical teams from other medical facilities to replace staff that have been identified as close contacts of these cases and stood down to be isolated.”
careFIJI App Tracing identifies one contact
Authorities are also relying on data captured via the careFIJI app, which both doctors had installed and had running.
“So while our contact tracing teams are conducting their work on the ground, a digital net is being cast far and wide for Fijians who may have had contact with these two doctors. careFIJI has identified one contact already, and Lautoka is safer for it.”
The app, Dr Fong says, is most effective when other people have it running on their phones, and as such urged people who have yet to install it to do so and activated whenever they leave their place of residence.
“It will not use data, it will not chew battery — it will save lives.”
As frontline healthcare workers, the two doctors had both received the first dose of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine. However, they had not received their second dose to be considered fully vaccinated.
“As we have explained before, you need two doses of this vaccine, given 10-12 weeks apart, to be considered fully vaccinated and develop the protective immune response conferred by the vaccine. So, medically, neither doctor was considered “vaccinated” –– not yet. “For either of them to be protected, they must be fully vaccinated. For Fiji to be protected, we must fully vaccinate our eligible population.”