Test outcome confirms no Lautoka breach, and need for heightened community testing

Staff of Lautoka Hospital’s Isolation ward tested negative for COVID19, which the Ministry of Health says rules out any breach of protocols, and indicates that the community is the most likely source of a recent virus outbreak in the health facility.

The most recent case involving a 25-year-old nurse who was one of four people whose positive status was announced yesterday. She is also the fourth person at the hospital to be diagnosed with coronavirus, following on two doctors on Monday 3 May and two days later, on Wednesday 5 May, a 53-year-old man who died the same evening. Initial concerns were that the infection may have stemmed from a breach in the isolation ward protocols, prompting widespread testing of workers.

However, the results came out negative, thus indicated to authorities that the infection may have spread to the hospital via the community. Accordingly, the ministry says it will widen its containment strategy beyond tracing and testing primary and secondary contacts of existing cases only and step up its community COVID19 surveillance at large.

“[Community surveillance] has be prioritised society-wide,” Dr Fong said.

“Screening clinics can be opened, but it takes the initiative of an ill patient to come forward for us to find them. Mobile screening teams can be dispatched, but my teams work far better and quicker when people are honest with them and the public is cooperative.”

“In the early phase of our containment strategy, we hoped to break the early chains of transmission quickly by tracing and testing primary and secondary contacts of existing cases. We have always screened carefully for symptomatic cases among the community as well, however, this surge in cases of unknown origin demands that we develop much stronger mechanisms of community surveillance.

“As our testing capacity steadily increases, we are going to become even more judicious in our testing of all Fijians with COVID-like symptoms, regardless of their connection to existing patients.”

Data provided by MOH’s Chief Medical Advisor Dr Jemesa Tudravu indicated that within 24 hours, their teams had screened 16,991 individuals and swabbed 1,041 bringing the total to 295,462 and 14,581 respectively.

Contact tracing works too has continued, and Dr Tudravu is appealing with members of the public to be supportive of the team by agreeing to be screened and/or swabbed when requested and “please tell the truth” if you are interviewed.

Photo: Fijian Government

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