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16 Apr 2020 | 07:21 AM UTC

Fiji: Authorities declare second state of natural disaster due to COVID-19 case increase April 16 /update 4

Fijian government announces a second state of natural disaster amid an increase in COVID-19 cases; follow authority directives

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Event

On Thursday, April 16, the Fijian government declared a second state of natural disaster amid an increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases. The decision comes after the 17th case of the virus was confirmed, prompting authorities to carry out contact tracing for the most recent case. The Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, stated that lockdown restrictions in place in Suva will be lifted on Friday, April 17, following increased case screening.

Other restrictions, including a nationwide curfew between 22:00 and 05:00 (local time), remain in place and those placed under quarantine will remain as such for 28 days, as opposed to 14 days. Public gatherings remain prohibited and public spaces such as nightclubs, gyms, cinemas, and swimming pools remain closed. A lockdown has also been introduced at Vunicagi Settlement until Thursday, 14 May, whilst an ongoing lockdown at Soasoa Settlement will be extended for 14 days until Thursday, April 30. Screening programs will also be expanded to Ba, Labasa, Korovou, Nadi, Savusavu, Sigatoka, and Tavua. A state of natural disaster was initially been declared in Fiji due to the passing Cyclone Harold on Wednesday, April 8.

All scheduled flights have been suspended at Nadi International Airport (NAN) since Thursday, March 26, and domestic travel has also been limited. Authorities have prohibited all passenger travel to the outer islands from Sunday, March 29. Schools remain closed until at least April 17, and further extensions are possible depending on the evolution of the situation. Reports suggest that Fiji Airways is scheduled to conduct a repatriation flight between Nadi and Auckland on Friday, April 17. 

As of April 16, Fiji has confirmed 17 cases of COVID-19, with no associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the coming days and weeks. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the coming days and weeks. 

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.