13 May 2021

Parts of Fiji to enter lockdown, as Covid-19 cases rise

1:36 pm on 13 May 2021

Fiji's government has decided to escalate lockdown measures, as health authorities recorded nine more community cases of Covid-19 over the past day.


.. Photo: Facebook/Fiji govt

The total number of community cases now stands at 44, as an outbreak of the B1617 (Indian) variant of the virus prompted the government to announce that the Suva and Nausori area will be locked down from 11pm Friday to 4am Tuesday.

It is in this area that the government said it expected to have "many" more cases recorded in the coming days.

As the government works to trace infections from an outbreak at a large supermarket in Flagstaff, near the capital Suva, health authorities have admitted they may not have employed the best communications strategies in this second wave of the virus.

The government has in recent weeks conducted once daily updates, sometimes starting close to 10pm.

"We do need to improve our communication strategy. That is something that I for one will be working on, that I've been working on with a few others. We have put a plan together and we have thought about it. It's just that when we can implement it, is the issue that we will have to work with," Dr Fong said.

"There is a delicate balance between ensuring that I've got all the information that I need to share, and that what I share is accurate against making sure that the message is coming out at the right time. I do struggle a little bit, even during the day, having to keep responding to a lot of reports that are coming in while I'm trying to dictate how we are responding."

Admitting the public information campaign part of the government's response had not been easy to implement, Dr Fong said the team he headed would need to segregate "between the team that's driving the response and the overseeing of the response, and the team that's driving the narrative."

He said the entire Covid-19 situation was new, and therefore presented evolving challenges, meaning information-sharing sometimes became a second priority.

"We're so focused on trying to get the response and with dealing with the problem. But I agree, we will have to get the comms up a bit more so that we can get more public confidence in the way that we are working."

Fiji health officials Dr Aalisha SahuKhan, left, and Dr James Fong.

Fiji health officials Dr Aalisha SahuKhan, left, and Dr James Fong. Photo: Facebook/Fiji govt

Losing the fight?

On questions about whether the government had lost control of the contact tracing, the health secretary expressed optimism.

He said the weekend lockdown for the central eastern division of Viti Levu would provide important fact finding opportunities.

"We've had three severe cases, one of whom passed away, and we have had recoveries from the severe cases. We are now trying to see what the indications are with regard to the cases that are positive, how many of them are likely to turn severe," Dr Fong said.

"Based on that data that we work on over the next four days, we will be able to make a firm commitment as to what else we need to do. I don't personally feel that we are ready to jump back out from the field yet.

"I still feel that there is every chance that we will get ahead of the game if we follow a game plan where we allow ourselves to see more clearly what's where the endpoint is."

The weekend 24 hour curfew is to spread out over four days, and there are plans for longer lockdowns and more severe restrictions as part of that game plan, Dr Fong added.

"All the containment strategies we do is just for us to be able to try to stop this virus from moving, so that we can get ahead."

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