Suva, FIJI – April 16, 2020: 7.30pm (FBC NEWS/PACNEWS): Fiji’s COVID-19 cases have increased to 17 with the latest case coming out of Vanua Levu.
The patient is a 21-year old who is a relative and travel companion of patient nine.
The two had travelled together from India to Singapore and on to Fiji.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said since his return to Fiji, the man had not shown any single symptoms of the coronavirus.
Bainimarama said upon returning to the country this young man was in self-quarantine for two full weeks up until 05 April
He said free of any symptoms throughout the virus’s known two-week incubation period, by all appearances, the patient was in the clear.
“But as experts have unveiled more about the insidious nature of this virus, and our understanding of the disease has evolved, the way we define and contain cases must evolve as well. From this week, we’ve widened our testing to all close contacts of all our confirmed cases, regardless of whether they are displaying symptoms. That’s how we identified, tested and confirmed this gentleman as our 17th case. He was immediately entered into isolation upon testing positive today where he is in stable condition. His close contacts have been entered into separate isolation facilities.” PM Bainimarama said in his address to the nation today.
Bainimarama said this all goes to show that the knowns of this virus pale in comparison to the unknowns.
“What we do know is this: physical distancing is the only strategy that stops this virus. The disease cannot move if its carrier doesn’t –– so while there is no medical cure, time and distance are two sure-fire ways to put a stop to its transmission,” said Bainimarama.
He said the quarantine period for COVID-19 has been extended to 28 days.
“Our contact tracing stemming from this latest case has revealed the need for additional lockdowns on Vanua Levu. The Vunicagi Settlement between Nabowalu and Labasa will be locked down for the next 28 days. The settlement lies along a short stretch of vital highway which vehicles will still be allowed to traverse under 24/7 police monitoring, as no alternate routes into Labasa exist. However, no passengers will be allowed to disembark or embark: No one in and no one out.
“Our lockdown of the Soasoa settlement as well will be extended another 14 days, in line with our 28-day quarantine policy. Given the continued risk of transmission on Vanua Levu, our ban on inter-island travel by air and sea will remain in effect,” said the PM.
Bainimarama confirmed this step is being taken after reports that the virus can remain with individuals for a longer period than earlier anticipated.
This applies to anyone who is newly quarantined, and those who are serving out their initial 14-day period.
Those who have ended their quarantine period will not go back into isolation but will be monitored by health ministry officials.
“So, for example, if you are on day seven of your quarantine, you will remain in quarantine for 21 more days. Anyone whose quarantine has ended will not go back into quarantine, but they will continue to be monitored by the Ministry of Health until they meet the full 28-day threshold”.
In other parts of the world, a number of people who had been cleared of COVID-19 were later found to still be carrying the disease after the 14-day period.
Suva lockdown lifted, School to remain closed until June
The lockdown on Fiji’s capital Suva will be lifted by 5am Friday.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said this is based on 180,000 Fijians in the Suva confined having been screened by medical teams and fever clinics.
“The progress of our screening and contact tracing has kept us on track to lift the lockdown of the Suva confined area by 5am tomorrow. The Nabua settlement however –– the site of two of our coronavirus cases –– is still a high-risk region. Given how long this virus has proven it can stay dormant, the Nabua settlement will remain locked down for an additional 14 days.
“I want to be crystal clear with everyone watching: Even though the Suva lockdown is lifting, every other life-saving directive in place will remain in place.
“The nationwide curfew remains in effect. Nightclubs stay closed. Gyms stay closed. Cinemas stay closed. Pools stay closed. Public gatherings are not permitted. Physical distancing of two metres from all others should be maintained at all times. The end of the lockdown is not cause for celebration. It is not a reason to have large grog sessions or drinking parties. It is not a justification to stay out past 8pm. It is not an excuse to leave your homes for no good reason,” Bainimarama said in his address to the nation today.
“In the West, Fijians who have returned from overseas remain under closely supervised quarantine, he said.
“One flight is arriving tomorrow from Auckland –– every passenger aboard will head straight to one of these facilities. As I said earlier, the period of quarantine is now 28 days. If you’ve already been released from quarantine after returning from overseas, prepare for a visit from health officials,” said PM Bainimarama.
Meanwhile, Bainimarama has announced schools will remain closed until June.
“Schools were scheduled to open next week Monday. Instead, schools will not open until the 15th of June, an extension that recognises that this virus will be part of our lives for the foreseeable future, and we must plan accordingly.
The date schools reopen is subject to change based on the situation on the ground at the time. The Minister for Education joins me today to talk about how her ministry will continue to ensure that learning materials are distributed for at-home schooling, technology will be impactfully utilised, teachers and parents will be engaged and how students can utilise this as an opportunity for upskilling and professional development,” said Bainimarama….