21 Jun 2021

166 more, Fiji Covid-19 cases continue to escalate

2:35 pm on 21 June 2021

Fiji's Covid-19 cases continue to escalate as medical authorities confirmed another record-breaking 166 people infected with the virus.

This includes a death at the Colonial War Memorial (CWM) Hospital in the capital Suva.

The government has stopped providing information about where the case increases are and the Health Ministry admitted that community transmission was now 'broad.'

Health Secretary James Fong said the latest death is a 77-year-old man detected by a CWM Hospital screening team at his home where he had been bed-ridden for several months.

Despite that he had pre-existing medical conditions, Dr Fong said doctors assessing clinical data have attributed the cause of death to Covid-19.

He represents the seventh to die from the virus, the fifth in this outbreak alone, Dr Fong said.

Cases in the small township of Lami, just outside the capital, continue to increase and "so measures to ensure safe passage of people from affected containment zones to safe areas on the main island Viti Levu and to other islands is a focus of the government."

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

"The current priority is therefore to prevent the export of cases into non-containment zones. As such, any request to move outside of the Central Division to other areas of Viti Levu and from Viti Levu to Vanua Levu and the Maritime zone needs to be strictly regulated," Dr Fong said.

"Pre-departure swab tests and quarantine capability are being expanded and strengthened to reduce the risk of spread within and beyond the main island, Viti Levu."

Dr Fong said majority of the weekend's new cases were linked to existing clusters so the government will post heat maps on its digital platforms "to delineate case distribution within the Central and Western divisions."

He added everyone should practise covid-safe measures when they leave their homes irrespective of where they reside or are going.

Vaccination roll-out continues

More than 40,000 people had their first dose of the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine over a seven day period.

More than 40,000 people had their first dose of the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine over a seven day period. Photo: Supplied

The health ministry's vaccination teams continue to roll out as another 50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Fiji on Saturday as part of the Australian Government support.

Vaccination now moves onto the outer islands of the Northern and Eastern divisions of the country, Dr Fong said.

Fiji's vaccine of choice remains the AstraZeneca despite Australia from whom it receives the majority of its supply, has recommended the discontinued use of the vaccine for its under 60 year olds.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt announced earlier that the AstraZeneca vaccine would be recommended for use in people over 60 and those under 60 would now be offered the Pfizer shot.

Canberra accepted advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) after two women died from an extremely rare blood clotting disorder and 60 Australians out of the 3.8 million who received the shot developed blood clots.

Australia has provided Fiji with 250,000 of its manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine as part of its commitment of 1 million doses to its Pacific neighbour.

In response to concerns about Australia's change of vaccine policy, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative Office in the Pacific and Fiji's Health Ministry issued a joint statement.

They said that after vaccinating 25,6018 people (44 percent of the adult population) with one dose of AstraZeneca and administering two doses to 17,990 people, there were no confirmed cases of serious adverse effects in Fiji.

The statement said Covid-19 vaccination remains one of Fiji's most effective response measures.

"Australia's decision does not change the approach for us here in Fiji. Given the current community transmission and Covid-19 variant, all unvaccinated individuals are at risk from the virus.

"It is also important to remember that serious adverse events following immunization with the AstraZeneca vaccine remain rare events."

Further, the WHO continues to recommend Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines for individuals aged 18 years and over, the statement said.

"These vaccines have undergone the strictest safety and quality control trials and have reached the exacting standards of safety, purity and effectiveness. Nothing is left to chance."

A total of 473 people have recovered. Nine people who had tested positive to Covid-19 had died but their deaths were attributed to non-covid conditions.

Fiji now has 1,477 covid-positive people in isolation. There have been 1,894 cases since April with 1,964 infections since March, 2020.