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Fiji’s fifth case of COVID-19 has been announced and this is a 31-year-old woman from Lautoka, who was in contact with the first case, the flight attendant, who had contracted the disease last week.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said after the first person was diagnosed, the authorities quickly determined that the first patient attended a Zumba class while he was displaying symptoms.
He said all members of that class were directed to self-quarantine the same day the first patient was diagnosed, the 19th of March and they were each instructed to immediately alert our medical teams if they began developing symptoms.
“Four days into compulsory self-quarantine, one of the class members, a 31-year-old woman, began displaying symptoms. During their Zumba class, she worked out in close proximity with the first patient and shared a hug. When she later recognised her symptoms, she notified our rapid response medical teams, who securely and hygienically transported her via ambulance to the isolation ward at Lautoka Hospital. She was tested. Early this morning, she was confirmed as Fiji’s fifth case of COVID-19.”
He said the woman was in quarantine when her symptoms first developed.
“She shares a household with nine others – two of whom were also showing symptoms and have been isolated in Lautoka Hospital. The other seven remain under strict quarantine in the home, which is under constant police surveillance.”
The Prime Minister said this was the reason why Lautoka was shut down after the first case was identified.
“For anyone out there still asking why we’ve had to shut down the Lautoka confined area, this case is exactly why. We knew there was a risk that our first patient may have spread the virus to others. That is why we did not hesitate in shutting down movement into and out of the Lautoka confined area. No one in and no one out. If we hadn’t done so, this new patient could have travelled to other parts of Fiji, potentially exposing others and vastly complicating our contact tracing efforts.”
Bainimarama has lashed out at those who continue to disregard the severity of the COVID-19 virus.
This comes as he revealed that Fiji’s first patient, who was a flight attendant had in his first statement that, he only began showing symptoms a day before he was admitted to hospital.
“Our subsequent investigations revealed that unfortunately, we weren’t given the full story. Witnesses tell us he had been showing symptoms, including coughing, days prior and that he failed to place himself in self-quarantine. So, our contact tracing had to be extended further back to identify even more people he may have contacted and get them into quarantine as well.”
Bainimarama said this now water under the bridge and no one should waste time targeting or vilifying the first patient, as there is much more important work to focus on.
“Most of the individuals we’ve had to contact have been placed in compulsory self-quarantine. However, there are still six individuals, all in the Western Division, who have yet to come forward. The updated list of these names is again posted on the Ministry of Health’s Facebook page.”
He has told media that measures restricting travel out of the Lautoka confined area remain vital.
“Those measures will remain in effect for at least the next eight days depending on the outcomes of our contact tracing. We won’t hesitate to extend those restrictions if necessary.”
Bainimarama has also warned people now following the law, that they will be taken to task.
This as he said police are actively investigating reports that 36 Fiji Airways flight attendants have blatantly violated their self-quarantine, sharing grog and interacting with their friends and caregivers from outside the quarantine area.
“To those not following our instructions, I have to ask: Is this a joke to you? What in God’s name are you thinking? While Fijians in Lautoka are living under lockdown, while our health workers work day and night to test and treat patients, and while the elderly are restricted to their homes, these Fijians are spitting on all of the sacrifices their fellow Fijians are making to keep our country safe.”
He had this warning for the flight attendants.
“In Fiji, being a flight attendant is a highly-competitive job –– hundreds, if not thousands, of Fijians strive for each position filled. It should be a position you hold with pride and one you don’t take for granted. Because I can say that if irresponsible behaviour like this continues, Fiji Airways should not hesitate to clean house and replace you with people who take their duty of care seriously. Your behaviour in-flight, and the protective measures that you take to ensure the safety of your cabin, should be no different than they are on the ground when you’re caring for your own community.”
He said that if the government was not alerted of this breach, and even one of these flight attendants had COVID-19 – who then shared a bilo with 35 others, who were then in contact with others still from outside of quarantine – the situation could quickly spiral out of control.
Bainimarama has announced that Nadi International Airport will shut down from tomorrow and all local shipping services will cease from Sunday 29 March.
“Fiji now has two cases imported from overseas. From tomorrow, Nadi Airport will be officially shut down to all scheduled passenger travel. There are currently three flights inbound to Fiji carrying Fijians returning home from overseas, these passengers will all be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon the arrival.”
He said the government is working on helping those Fijians who are overseas seeking to come home.
“We’re exploring safe, low-risk evacuation measures to get these folks home. We’re also working closely with embassies here in Fiji to repatriate foreign nationals still on our shores and get them home as well.”
The PM adding that to stop the Coronavirus going out of control, all shipping services for passengers will cease.
“We’re seriously concerned about the virus ever reaching any of our outer island communities. From this Sunday, the 29th of March, all passenger travel to our outer islands will cease. Shipping lines for freight will continue – with increased bulk but decreased frequency – to ensure food and other essential goods are supplied across our islands. Anyone who regularly travels these routes should decide over the next four days where they’d prefer to spend the next few months.”
The ban on gatherings of 20 or more people remains in effect.
SOURCE: FBC NEWS/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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