COVID-19: Stay Alert

A soldier based at the Tanoa International Hotel tested positive for the virus on April 17 following routine testing.
19 Apr 2021 08:00
COVID-19: Stay Alert
Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services Dr James Fong, with Dr Aalisha Sahukhan during the press conference at the Ministry of Health headquarters in Toorak, Suva, on April 18, 2021. Photo: Leon Lord

The whole of Fiji must stay alert and anticipate an escalation in measures if test results return positive for the contacts of Fiji’s 73rd COVID-19 case.

This was stressed by Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services Dr James Fong.

A soldier based at the Tanoa International Hotel tested positive for the virus on April 17 following routine testing.

He was asymptomatic and had received the first dose of the vaccination when the first batch of vaccines arrived last month.

His last negative test result was on April 10.

Read the latest update:

The ministry suspects that he contracted the virus from two Fijians who returned from India on April 10 and were isolated at the Lautoka Hospital after testing positive on April 16.

Dr Fong said although the index case is classified as a border quarantine case, there is a serious risk that the virus could have entered the community.

Contact tracing

He said the soldier may have been in contact with hotel staff during the possible transmission window which spans from one to six days.

A total of 69 first generation contacts and 267 second generation contacts are now in quarantine.

First generation contacts refers to the immediate contacts, that is, frontline workers and in this case hotel workers.

Second generation contacts are those living in the household of the first generation contacts.

When this edition went to press last night, 56 test results of the first generation contacts had returned negative while the ministry were awaiting the remaining results which should be available today.


While Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama had discouraged people from non-essential travel and social gatherings, Dr Fong said the ministry will update the public on any new health restrictions today depending on the test results that they receive.

Dr Fong said: “The soldier was staying on site at the quarantine facility as is the protocol for all our military personnel on rotation through border quarantine duties.

“He is reported to not have left the site at any time during the window of transmission.

“However, given the potential window of transmission maybe prolonged we have to assume the soldier had some contact with day time staff of the quarantine facility including hotel workers. These are staff who have gone and entered into public spaces.

“It’s best that the whole of Fiji is alert. We would rather that the whole of Fiji is anticipating that we will have to escalate measures if we find some positive cases among the contacts that we have quarantined.

“Once we test them if we find some positive cases there then we will start escalating all our measures.

“We want to nuance the public health restriction measures according to the risk. We don’t want to do anything anyhow. We don’t want to lock down the whole of Suva for nothing just because we think there is a small risk. We want to understand the size of the risk before we start talking about lockdown.”

He stressed that the ministry will declare strict measures as and when the risk dictates.

“Right now our priority is in obtaining the clearest possible picture about the potential length of the chain of transmission.”

Furthermore, he clarified that while the vaccination protects people from getting sick, it does not protect people from getting the virus.

“There is a reduced chance of getting the virus but it doesn’t mean it goes down to zero. There is some chance that you can get some mild symptoms,” he said.

Dr Fong said the current case is a reminder that the only sustainable way to protect Fijians is through vaccination.

The next batch of the vaccines arrives into the country today.

Tanoa International Hotel

Tanoa International Hotel general manager Daniel Roy said that all staff based at the quarantine facility are safe and all precautionary measures will be followed in the event there is a lockdown within the property.

Religious bodies

Meanwhile, the Fiji Muslim League has suspended all Iftar prayer sessions for now and are awaiting Government directives.

The Shree Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha said they would continue with their Ram Naumi celebration and this stand would change if the Government gives directives to do so.

The Methodist and Catholic churches said they would adhere to Government instructions but no changes for now.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa


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