16 Apr 2020

Suva lockdown to continue until Covid-19 screening targets are met

6:04 am on 16 April 2020

Fiji's Prime Minister says the lockdown in Suva will not be lifted until the government is satisfied the number people screened has improved.

As of Wednesday, health authorities had screened more than 30,000 people either at fever clinics or in their homes.

But Frank Bainimarama said he wanted the target of 150,000 screen-tests reached before the lockdown is lifted.

"I want to be clear: While the Suva lockdown is scheduled to be lifted on Friday morning, that will not happen unless we're satisfied that enough Fijians have been screened by our mobile teams and at our clinics," Mr Bainimarama said.

"If not, the lockdown can - and will - easily be extended," he said.

A soldier helps mobile screening teams carry out door-to-door tests in Suva.

A soldier helps mobile screening teams carry out door-to-door tests in Suva. Photo: Supplied/Fiji govt

The screening taking place involves health assessments and temperature scans, rather than tests for Covid-19.

So far, 649 coronavirus tests have been carried out nationwide, with 16 confirmed cases in the country.

Mr Bainimarama said all Covid-19 patients were in isolation in hospitals and were in a stable condition.

There are 37 fever clinics set up across the country.

"Visiting a fever clinic is easy and painless. I've done it myself. The medical workers at these clinics will be able to tell you if you need further testing, whether that's for Covid or other viruses like the common cold, flu or dengue."

Testing and Quarantine

More than 46 people were tested for Covid-19 over the Easter weekend and Mr Bainimarama said all those results had come back negative.

He said the government's coronavirus response was focussed on three main areas identified as the most high risk for the local transmission of Covid-19.

These are the Nabua Settlement in Suva, the Soasoa settlement in Vanua Levu and parts of Nadi where people returning from overseas were being kept in supervised quarantine.

Fijian government officials visit isolation facilities.

Fijian government officials visit isolation facilities. Photo: Supplied/Fiji govt

In total, 252 peopel were being accommodated for 14 days in government-funded quarantine facilities.

"They are being closely monitored for flu-like symptoms and tested if necessary, any Fijian who returns home goes straight to one of these facilities, no exceptions." Mr Bainimarama said.

"Nabua and Soasoa have been locked down. Six individuals in Nabua broke compulsory quarantine this weekend. We've tracked every one of them down, each will be held accountable for their irresponsibility," he said.

Classess resume at the University of the South Pacific

Meanwhile, the University of the South Pacific (USP) will resume classes next Monday, but on a remote-basis only.

In a statement the USP said while many of its campuses remained in lockdown, students were still able to access teaching materials through its Moodle app.

"For students studying in trimesters or other terms, please contact your course co-ordinator for further information," it said.

The university said arrangements would be made to help students who were unable to access class materials remotely.

USP's Suva campus

USP's Suva campus Photo: wikicommons

Covid-19 financial assistance

Meanwhile, the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) said this week $US3.7 million had been paid out to those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Fund said out of this, the government had contributed $US530,000.

It said 10,670 members were able to access their funds but 2431 weren't successful because forms were incomplete, were unsigned by members and employers, or because additional documents were not received.

Earlier, the Australian government announced $US6.8 million in budget support for Fiji to tackle the Covid-19 threat in the country.

High Commissioner to Fiji, John Feakes, said this was in addition to the $US600,000 already provided to the Ministry of Health and $US133,000 to the military to assist in their response efforts.

Mr Feakes said Australia's aid also included medical equipment and supplies.