With broader and stricter lockdowns ruled out, and Fiji still far off from achieving herd immunity through vaccination, strict adherence to COVID-safe protocols is the only way to reduce transmission, Fijian health officials say.
COVID19 infections have risen for ten consecutive weeks since the start of the outbreak in April this year. Into the ninth week, it started hitting 3-digit figures in daily cases. Yesterday daily cases rose to 308, setting a new daily highest, on a day where only 5.6% of people have been fully immunized.
Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Health Dr James Fong this week reiterated the Fijian Government stance on lockdown, ruling out a broader lockdown because of the socioeconomic impact particularly on vulnerable members of the community including those in informal settlements. Lockdowns he said also does not guarantee compliance so too containment of the virus.
“Even under such a strict lockdown, we believe the virus would continue to circulate within many of these communities. We believe individuals would attempt to leave these communities and some would succeed. We believe that after 28 days of a 24-hour curfew and the untold hardship it would bring for Fijians, we’d still see new cases on day 29.”
There are no easy choices at this stage, but some choices are still smarter than others. And we believe there is a better and smarter way forward than a 28-day total lockdown, Dr Fong said.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Health is focusing its resources in high-risk areas and restricting movement to essential reasons only.
Once adequate level of immunity is achieved within the community, restrictions will be relaxed and allow for the possibility of international travel to Fiji.
“Until that day, we must practice strict adherence to the health measures like mask-wearing, handwashing, and physical distancing. In fact, many of the adjustments we’re making now will always be with us. This pandemic has changed the world, it will change Fiji as well.”