NEWS

Don’t Panic, Says Dr Fong

“I plead with everyone just to protect themselves in order to protect Fiji.”
08 Dec 2021 11:41
Don’t Panic, Says Dr Fong
Dr James Fong, Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services. Photo: Leon Lord

Do not panic!

This was the message by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services Permanent Secretary Dr James Fong following the confirmation of the first two carriers of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 detected at our borders.

Dr Fong said there was no need for the public to panic over the news of the new variant detected in the country.

“To those who might be panicking, panicking is pointless and it will not help Fiji,” he said.

“I plead with everyone just to protect themselves in order to protect Fiji.”

He added that the evidence on Omicron variant’s impact on the transmissibility of the virus, severity of disease, and effect of prior immunity from vaccination or infection was still in the very early stages and conclusions could not be made yet.

Dr Fong said according to preliminary evidence, the new variant has been seen to infect people who are fully vaccinated, however, fully vaccinated cases have been mild or with no symptoms.

He also said that evidence had also noted that the variant may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and it could cause reinfection in people who have been previously infected with another variant.

 

Omicron variant in Fiji

On Monday night, Dr Fong announced that the results of the two Fijians who had travelled from Nigeria on November 25, have been received and were confirmed positive for the Omicron variant.

He added that the duo returned to Fiji the same day the discovery of the Omicron variant was announced internationally.

He said they had tested negative for COVID-19 before departure from Fiji and before they left Nigeria.

“They entered a Government-designated border quarantine facility immediately upon arrival into Fiji, tested positive while in quarantine, currently have no symptoms, and were fully vaccinated.

“With the exception of four passengers, all those on the flight were from non-travel partner countries, and therefore entered a border quarantine facility upon arrival to undergo the full quarantine protocol of 10 days.

“That has since been extended to 14 days. The four passengers on the flight who were from a travel partner country have tested negative. The Fiji Airways crew and accompanying passengers from FJ1392 have tested negative at least twice.”

Dr Fong added that the Omicron variant was a timely reminder that the pandemic was still ongoing and individuals needed to keep working on adopting COVID safe habits even with high vaccination levels.

 

No community transmision yet for new variant

Dr Fong said the indications were that there was no community transmission at this time.

He said the measures put in place to prevent, or at least delay, community transmission through the importation of cases from red zone countries had worked well so far.

He added that red zone designated countries were countries with low vaccination rates, poor testing data, and an ongoing outbreak.

Dr Fong said the detection of the Omicron variant in travellers in border quarantine was not unexpected, given how quickly it has spread worldwide.

“It is a sharp reminder to ourselves that the key to avoiding future restrictions and lockdowns is for us all to remain cautious about how we engage in the greater freedom we will enjoy.”

 

Ministry strengthens surveillance and border health measures

Dr Fong said border health measures and surveillance would need to be strengthened as the new variant cases in the European region emerges.

“Our border health measures and surveillance will need to be strengthened and maintained. We anticipate continued surveillance and testing in our communities and maritime islands to monitor and detect cases for early intervention.

“To protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our country, we must all get vaccinated when it is our turn and even when we’re fully vaccinated, we must maintain COVID safe habits.”

 

Adherence to COVID-Safe measures will reduce impact

People in public transport were either not wearing a mask or wore them improperly on December 7, 2021.  Photo: Ronald Kumar

People in public transport were either not wearing a mask or wore them improperly on December 7, 2021. Photo: Ronald Kumar

The lack of adherence to COVID-safe measures must stop now.

Dr Fong made this plea as he raised concerns on the lack of adherence to COVID-safe measures in gatherings around the country, in particular the adherence to masking in indoor public spaces.

“While the easing of restrictions is needed to facilitate livelihoods, we must ensure that together with vaccination, we continue to observe our COVID-safe measures and avoid contained spaces and crowds,” Dr Fong said.

“After the Delta outbreak this year, it is understandable that many will feel the urge to relax and celebrate now that case numbers are low, especially during the festive season and many of us have let our guards slip.

“We are all human. But this must stop now.”

He said he has requested all spotters from health, commerce and security ministries to escalate the fining of individuals and corporate bodies where there is evidence of non-compliance with COVID-safe measures.



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