We have plans in place to cater for anticipated COVID19 case increase: Health

Fijian authorities are expecting more people to test positive for coronavirus, stemming from the Tavakubu funeral that the hotel staff otherwise known as Fiji’s case 74 had attended over the weekend

As of yesterday, the ministry had collected samples from 200 people who had attended the funeral, and at the time of the presser had not confirmed any new positive case.

Authorities are also not limiting the exposure definition to funeral attendees, but their contacts as well, calling on them to reach out to authorities via 158 if they have not been contacted.

They have also made reassurances that they have the resources and contingency plans to cater for the anticipated increase.

“We are expecting more cases. The reason, as Dr Fong (Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health Dr James Fong) mentioned in his speech, is the 14-day incubation period. We know that we have tested the first 69 contacts and 300+ secondary contacts and were negative the first-time around. We know that the virus can take up to 14 days before it can show up in a test or even causes symptoms. This is why we feel like there will be more cases coming up,” Ministry of Health Head of Health Protection Dr Aalisha Sahu-Khan said.

“The current isolation facility we have been using is the Lautoka Hospital. And now we have opened up the Navua Hospital as well. If we go beyond that, we have contingency plan of opening up other centres for isolation as well as for quarantine of contacts.

“Part of the reason as Dr Fong mentioned we have paused international passenger travel so to free up border quarantine hotel facilities for this increase in capacity for isolation and quarantine.”

As of yesterday evening, there were 1,063 recent overseas arrivals undergoing 14-day mandatory quarantine in designated facilities. Dr Fong said he was aware of an additional 94 people who were to have flown into Fiji before the midnight cut-off for international passenger flights came into effect yesterday.

International passenger flights will be restricted to special cases including medical reasons, but all of which will be vetted by Dr Fong.

Dr Fong also admits the success of the contact tracing efforts and containing the spread of the virus depend on people coming forward and/or adhering to COVID19 physical distancing measures including staying home as much as possible and if they have to venture into public spaces, activate their CAREFiji App.

He lauded the actions of the Cunningham family in presenting themselves to authorities thus avoiding and/or minimising further transmission.

“The more people that come up out of that funeral just like the lady in Cunningham, the more likely that we can track their movement and find and test. For more cases. I expect that a lot more of those people that were in the funeral will turn out positive. That’s an expectation that we all have,” Dr Fong said.

“We also expect that in due course, we will find some people who are contacts of those people to turn out positive. However, if we do what we just mentioned today, wearing masks, physical distancing, wash your hands, there is a good chance that the virus will not be transmitted [further].”

Today, the driver of a minibus that had transported the hotel staff and another family member from the Lautoka Minibus Stand to Kerebula in Nadi at 5.30pm on Saturday 17 April presented himself to authorities.

“The driver has identified himself and has been screened by health staff. This notice is to request members of the public who may have travelled on this bus on Saturday at 5.30pm between Lautoka and Kerebula to please call 158. The public is assured of confidentiality,” the ministry said.

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