By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.
Health authorities in Fiji say they will not advise the Government to lift Covid-19 restrictions out of fear of a resurgence of infections.
This comes amid 16 deaths and close to 350 new cases reported in the community last weekend.
Fiji’s Health Secretary Dr James Fong says the spike in cases was experienced after a few health measures were relaxed in November last year.
“Our biggest worry remains compliance to the informal setting, especially among the informal dwellings where we may have some problem with providing oversight over the Covid-safe measures.
“They remain the most significant areas of risk and the most significant areas of transmission that can happen,” Dr Fong said
Fiji had reopened its borders to international travellers on December 1st with more than 70-thousand tourists expected to arrive at Nadi Airport by the end of this month.
Anyone who is in the high-risk group and develops any Covid-19 symptoms is strongly advised to get tested, said Fong.
He said the 16 deaths were recorded between 28 December 2021 and 20 January 2022, with 12 deaths reported in the Northern Division, two in the Central Division and two in the Western Division.
Fong said the deaths in the north from December 2021 to mid-January 2022 were being reported on Sunday because of a delay in the issuance of Medical Cause of Death Certificates.
“All were at higher risk of severe disease due to their ages or underlying medical conditions.
“Fourteen of the people who died were not vaccinated, while two were fully vaccinated,” he said.
“These were people who were over the age of 50 or had significant underlying medical conditions (non-communicable disease). And even more sadly, 14 of the people who died were not vaccinated.”
Fong also said the presence of two or more NCDs such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, obesity and hypertension, at the same time, had been a predominant contributor to severe outcomes in all the waves of Covid-19 in Fiji.
Fiji learning from other countries
Fong said Fiji had learnt from other countries that had made similar moves, only to experience a resurgence in cases.
“Unfortunately, we have seen that done before by many countries only to be followed by a resurgence of the virus,” Fong said. “In Fiji we had the same experience.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in the English Parliament last week the lifting of all Covid-19 measures introduced to combat the Omicron variant.
Johnson said this included compulsory mask-wearing on public transport and in shops, guidance to work from home and vaccine certificates – from next week.
Johnson also told the House of Commons that the legal requirement on people with coronavirus to self-isolate would be allowed to lapse when the regulations expired on 24 March, and that date could be brought forward.
Supported by cheers from some on the Conservative side of Parliament, the UK leader announced an immediate end to the need for pupils to wear masks at secondary schools.
British media had also reported that although it had been expected that Johnson would announce the end of work-from-home guidance and the need to show a certificate proving vaccination or a recent negative Covid-19 test to enter some venues, the immediate lifting of mandatory mask rules came as a surprise to some.
Call for proactive measures to avoid emergencies
Meanwhile, a World Health Organization official in the Pacific said proactive and strict measures need to be taken to avoid Covid-19 emergencies.
Sean Casey said countries like Fiji could not afford to let their guard down as the spread of the Omicron and Delta variants remains rampant in the communities.
Individual measures are the best way to avoid severe impacts, Casey said.
He said Fiji and many other countries are now in a situation where they have to live with the virus.
“We really want to avoid lockdowns,” Casey said. “They have a massive impact on society. They are temporary measures.
“The transmission will still happen. Many of the deaths that we are seeing in Fiji on a regular basis are people who are older, who have not been vaccinated, and who don’t seek care. A lot of the deaths are happening at home.”
Casey said the majority of the deaths in Fiji are in the high-risk category.
He urged Fijians that strict adherence to personal Covid-19 safety measures is “very important during this third wave.”
Students in Year 8-13 in Fiji had returned to school on Monday after schools were closed since April last year.
The Health Ministry said 92.6 percent of Fiji’s adult population were fully vaccinated. 40,820 children aged 12-17 had received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Fiji has had 60,931 cases of Covid-19 since March 2020, with 3,136 active cases in isolation. The death toll is at 768.