30 Apr 2021

Covid-19: Fiji soldiers stood down over protocol breach

7:00 pm on 30 April 2021

A group of Fiji soldiers is being investigated over a breach of Covid-19 protocols at the managed isolation quarantine facility in Nadi.

This comes amid a surge in coronavirus cases across the country's main island of Viti Levu.

The Health Ministry announced five new infections on Thursday, taking the total number of active cases to 49, including 28 which were transmitted locally.

Contact tracing underway in Fiji.

Contact tracing underway in Fiji. Photo: Facebook/Fiji govt

Health Secretary James Fong said the soldiers had breached the restrictions which led to them and others contracting Covid-19.

He said they were now contained in an isolation facility.

Dr Fong said the troops would be dealt with after the ministry had contained the spread of the virus.

"We have kept them where they are right now. There is one group of soldiers who have been stood down but further action will have to happen after we finish our containment programme."

Meanwhile, one of Fiji's latest Covid-19 cases has sparked a testing spree in a bid to determine if the woman had infected fellow workers at a garment factory near the capital Suva.

Fong said the 52-year-old woman was a concern for officials because the factory had been shut down since Covid-19 restrictions were announced on Monday.

Fong said the ministry was screening everyone she worked with and came into contact with while she may have been contagious.

The management of the factory she worked in and the factory next door have been contacted, he said.

"These managers have agreed to work together with us to ensure that their workers are urgently screened," he said.

Dr James Fong.

Dr James Fong. Photo: Fiji govt

"Our plan is to have my teams go house-to-house and swab as many of them as possible - at least 80 percent if we can."

Another case of serious concern, said Fong, was that of the 53-year-old man from Rakiraki Town who did not have a clearly-established connection to existing cases.

Fong said boundaries in Ra Province had been set, and the patient's family was now in quarantine and had been swabbed for testing.

The ministry had also swabbed another 40 primary contacts of the man and screened 406 others in Ra, continued Fong.

The results are pending, he said.

Case 111's travel history 'a concern'

Earlier, the ministry said case number 111 - a 25-year-old man from the Makoi cluster - is also of high concern because of his extensive travel history since 14 April when he was exposed.

Fong said the man had moved around Viti Levu for two weeks.

He said the contact tracing teams are in overdrive working to determine and contact everyone he may have encountered who have been determined to be of risk.

He said while authorities hoped the risk of transmission was lessened by the fact that the man, at no point during that time, displayed any Covid-19 symptoms, there were concerns because 'the man engaged in high-risk activities such as drinking grog and sharing cigarettes with friends and family'.

"Others very well may have been exposed to the virus. We simply can't take any chances."

Fong said every Fijian must act responsibly, by washing their hands often and staying at home.

"We still have too much movement among the public. Please stay at home, stay still.

"If there's one measure that matters more than any, it is that: Stay home. It is where all of us are safest.

"And if there is one message I ask everyone watching to help us spread, it is to encourage others to stay home."

Brits urged to avoid Fiji

Meanwhile, British nationals have been urged not to travel to Fiji amid a Covid-19 outbreak there.

The British Foreign Office today issued the travel advisory on Fiji after the latest cases were announced.

The main island of Viti Levu entered a 14-day restriction period from 26 April after a surge of cases were identified outside managed isolation quarantine facilities.

International passenger flights have been suspended and restrictions have been put in place on public gatherings including church and funeral services.

During this period, police will close off exits at the containment zones' checkpoints.

The Fiji Government is also encouraging people to work from home, and to leave their houses only if essential.

Fiji now has recorded 116 Covid-19 cases, 49 active with 28 locally-transmitted, 65 recovered and two deaths since the country recorded its first case of the virus in March last year.

Staff at a MIQ facility in Fiji assemble for a briefing.

Staff at a MIQ facility in Fiji assemble for a briefing. Photo: Facebook/Fiji govt