26 Jun 2020

Fijian soldiers head home amid fears of Covid-19 outbreak

2:28 pm on 26 June 2020

A health emergency operation is expected in Fiji this weekend when more than 150 soldiers arrive home from the middle-east amid fears of Covid-19 infection.

Fiji's military chief Viliame Naupoto said the army is concerned after learning that some locals working with the Fijians in their Sinai camp tested positive for the virus.

Fiji military commander Viliame Naupoto visiting Fijian troops in Sinai in November, 2019.

Fiji military commander Viliame Naupoto visiting Fijian troops in Sinai in November, 2019. Photo: RFMF Fiji Military

Rear-Admiral Naupoto said the soldiers "could have been exposed to those infected" at the camp.

"There's been no Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR-covid) test carried out in Sinai but we've alerted the Ministry of Health that the soldiers are coming back from that environment where the civilians who are working at the South Camp where they're based have tested positive for Covid-19," Viliame Naupoto said.

Viliame Naupoto said he's also in contact with the head of the Multinational Force and Observers Commander in Sinai, Major General Evan Williams, of New Zealand, regarding the status of the Fijian soldiers.

Mr Naupoto said the 162 soldiers had been in Sinai for 16 months and will undergo stringent quarantine measures when they arrive at Nadi Airport on Saturday

He said the army's working with health officials on the "steps they're going to take to make sure we remain covid-contained".

"The ministry has its own protocols that we will have to strictly follow which are through quarantine and testing that the soldiers will have to go through.

"We are providing all the necessary support the ministry requires from us and the soldiers will be billeted separately from others in quarantine."

The army chief said the Egyptian civilians who had tested positive for the virus had worked closely with the Fijian troops.

"We're not surprised the Egyptians have contracted the disease because they return back home after work everyday," he said.

"They work in areas like the kitchen and they also clean up."

According to the World Health Organisation, Egypt has recorded more than 59,000 cases of the coronavirus and 2450 deaths.

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