Meet Fiji’s Health Experts
Join Mr. Craig Strong (CEO of Investment Fiji), Dr. James Fong (Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Health) & Mr. Pramesh Sharma (BSP Life – Chief Investment Officer) for an exclusive webinar on “Opportunities in Fiji’s Health Sector”.
Learn more about the opportunities & incentives available for investors along with a success story from private healthcare investor – BSP Life (Oceania Hospital).
Date & Time: Tuesday 29th September 2020, 4.00pm – 4.45pm Fiji Time
Register in advance for this webinar:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email which contains information about joining the webinar.
Today we are announcing one new border quarantine case of COVID-19. The patient is a 64-year-old female Fijian citizen who arrived on repatriation flight GA7280 from New Delhi, which arrived in Nadi on Thursday, August 27th, 2020.
As with all prior border quarantine cases, this latest patient has been under strict border quarantine conditions since arrival into Nadi. This includes compulsory 14-day quarantine at a government-designated quarantine facility under supervision from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services. She is in stable condition and has been transferred to the isolation ward at the Lautoka hospital as per standard protocol for confirmed cases.
This is the third border quarantine case confirmed among the passengers on board this repatriation flight. As previously announced, in line with our infection control protocols, all areas of Nadi Airport accessible to passengers from that flight have been hygienically deep-cleaned, as overseen by our on-site medical officer and health inspectors. The frontline border staff that were directly involved in the arrival of the passengers on this flight have also all tested negative for COVID-19.
With this new case, Fiji has six active border quarantine cases, all of whom are being treated in isolation at either the Nadi or Lautoka hospitals. We are diligently enforcing our border quarantine and infection control protocols. As such, these border quarantine cases continue to pose zero risks to the health and wellbeing of the Fijian public.
To my Fellow Fijians,
Ni sa Bula Vinaka, Namaste, Ni Hao, Noa’ia ‘e Mauri and a very Happy Constitution Day to you all!
As you all know, we had to think a bit differently about our celebration this year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Because Fiji is a COVID-19 contained country and our children can safely attend school, we gave our students the chance to take part in a virtual Constitution Day celebration — one that called on their creativity to answer the following prompt:
“Given the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, how can all of us work together to uphold every Fijian’s right to health, as enshrined in our Fijian Constitution?”
I want to thank all the students who helped us answer that prompt through essays, videos, poems and short stories. All together, we saw hundreds of submissions. As hard as it was, we have narrowed down all of those incredible contributions to five national winners.
It is now my privilege to announce those students today: Our first winner is Raijeli Sakaria, a Year Eight (8) student from the Bhawani Dayal Memorial Primary School, who gave us all some great tips on how to stay COVID-19-safe ––by including the installation of the careFIJI digital contact tracing mobile application in your mobile phones.
The Year 11 students of Labasa College are among our winners as well –– with a sketch that shows how all of us can work together to keep Fiji COVID-19 contained.
We are also awarding a duo from the Rakiraki Methodist Mission School –– Year Eight students Jone Raibevu and Aminiasi Dalituicama who contributed a short and sweet spoken word performance.
And with a powerful essay, which we have since recorded for the nation to hear, Year 10 student Oswell Morell wrote his winning piece on how and why our constitutional right to health matters for every Fijian.
Last, but certainly not least, Year One student NES Natania Damudamu of the Gospel School of the Deaf has been selected as our fifth national winner for her video showing us, via sign language, how we can all help realise every Fijian’s constitutional right to health by properly washing our hands.
We are grateful to the parents and teachers around the country who helped us make this year’s Constitution Day a success.
I hope you had fun with your videos, and all learned something along the way. Congratulations to our winners, I look forward to hosting you all at the State House.
Happy Constitution Day!
May Almighty God Bless Our Beloved Nation. Thank you!
Earlier this week we assured the public the arrival of repatriation flight GA7280 from New Delhi to Fiji on the 27th of August was dealt with in line with our border quarantine protocols –– which are the most stringent anywhere in the world. As some of you may be aware, several New Zealand citizens on board that flight continued onwards travel after spending about 30 minutes on the tarmac of Nadi Airport. Five of those passengers went on to test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival to New Zealand. As per our infection control protocols, all areas of Nadi Airport accessible to passengers from that flight have been hygienically deep-cleaned.
As per Fijian border quarantine protocol, all disembarking passengers from that flight were tested for the virus. Following the confirmation of cases in New Zealand, we did expect some test results to return positive. Two passengers did indeed test positive for the virus. They are both male Fijian citizens, one is aged 55 and the other is 22. These confirmations bring Fiji’s total number of active border quarantine cases to five.
Both gentlemen have been hygienically secured in the isolation ward at Nadi Hospital. Neither were displaying symptoms at that time of testing. Again, these tests were run as part of our standard border quarantine process.
All 83 other passengers on board the flight have returned negative results. These passengers have each been entered into mandatory 14-day quarantine period in a government designated quarantine facility under supervision from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. If any develop symptoms, they will be tested for the virus. At the end of their quarantine period, we will test them once again. If they return negative results, they will be discharged.
The frontline border staff that were directly involved in the arrival of the passengers on this flight have also all tested negative for COVID-19.
Once again, I must emphasize: Our border quarantine and infection prevention control protocols are as strict as they come. So long as they are upheld there is no risk to the Fijian public from border quarantine cases.
Today we are announcing one new border quarantine case of COVID-19, a 25-year-old female nursing officer. She contracted the virus while treating one of our other border quarantine cases in an isolation unit.
We are considering this case a “border quarantine case” because this nurse never entered a public space after contracting the virus. As per protocol, she worked and lived in the isolation centre, with exactly zero contact with the public. She then entered a Fijian Government quarantine facility –– again, without ever interacting with anyone from the public. After developing symptoms while in quarantine, she was tested. After she returned a positive result for COVID-19, she was admitted to the isolation ward at Nadi Hospital where she is recovering well. In fact, her symptoms have since dissipated.
Her fellow isolation unit nursing colleagues and medical officers on rotation have all returned negative results. Out of an abundance of caution, even though they never interacted directly with this patient, all relevant frontline health, hotel staff and military personnel have been swabbed for the virus and tested negative.
Around the world, rates of infection among healthcare staff are among highest of any group. As nearby as New Zealand, during the month of April, one in ten cases are recorded among healthcare workers. Even when every protocol is followed, even when Personal Protective Gear is employed properly, this unpredictable and unwieldy virus can still be transmitted.
Despite more than 3,000 patients held within our quarantine facilities, this is the first positive case confirmed among our staff working in our isolation facilities. But given what we’ve seen around the world, we are quite sure it won’t be the last. That is why we’ve structured an airtight operation system within our isolation facilities to ensure no risk to the general public –– I’d like to cover again exactly how those facilities function.
Our medical staff work these isolation facilities through a roster system, whereby they work and live in the isolation facility for 14 days, then go into quarantine in one of our government designated quarantine facility for 14 days. They must then register another negative COVID test result before they can rejoin their family. This is the most stringent system of isolation unit management in the world, more rigorous than both Australia and New Zealand.
Our healthcare staff all operate in appropriate personal protective equipment at all times. There is no shortage of these supplies in Fiji and our staff are well-trained in its use. We’re constantly reviewing and strengthening personal protection measures wherever we see an opportunity. However, as I’ve said, some risk will always remain due to the aggressively contagious nature of the virus. That is why we must always remain vigilant.
This will be our 11th border quarantine case. We currently now have two active cases in Lautoka and one in Nadi Hospital.
I know the stringent protocols we have in place are a great comfort to the Fijian people. But we must never forget nor take for granted the exceptional sacrifices these measures demand of our healthcare staff. There is nothing easy about living and working away from your family for four weeks at a time.
There is nothing easy about working to save a life while also mitigating the risk of further infection. And it takes nothing less than absolutely bravery to work in our isolation wards. The Fijians who do so are heroes –– full stop.
Our medical staff of orderlies, ward assistants, laboratory technicians, nurses and doctors have together with the members of our security forces (RFMF, Navy and Police) held the frontline since the COVID 19 battle begun. We have as a group have weathered criticism, we have endured hardships, we have seen and experienced social and emotional turmoil, but we will never surrender. We will always honour our duty to our people; to keep them healthy and safe –– and we will do so with vigilance, with courage and with compassion.
We have noted that several recent cases confirmed at the New Zealand border in Christchurch transited through Fiji while travelling from India to New Zealand. We want to assure the public that these individuals did not contract or transmit the virus while in Fiji. These individuals landed in Fiji, spent 30 minutes in Nadi Airport, interacted with no one, and then transited onwards to New Zealand.
Bula Vinaka and good afternoon.
We all know the impacts of COVID-19 stretch far beyond the health sector alone. Our response requires a whole-of-government approach –– particularly when it comes to Fiji’s economic recovery. That’s why I’m here today alongside representatives from our COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Taskforce.
Our full CRMT team consists of the Permanent Secretary for Economy, myself, the Acting Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services, and the Permanent Secretary for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport. We’ve also been working closely with other co-opted members of the taskforce, including the Permanent Secretary for Immigration, the Health Protection team, the Incident Management Team, and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Surveillance team.
As we have previously announced, we have securely confirmed border quarantine cases of COVID-19 among our citizens who are returning from overseas. These cases have not represented a risk to the public. Under the watchful eye of our disciplined forces, Fiji’s border is sealed, and the virus has not re-entered our communities.
However, I’m sad to report that another of these patients, a 61-year-old man, has passed away due to complications of COVID-19. The gentleman contracted the virus while in the United States. He arrived to Fiji from Sacramento, California on the 6th of August, where he was immediately entered into quarantine.
He developed symptoms of COVID-19 shortly after entering border quarantine and was transferred to the isolation unit at Nadi Hospital. When his condition worsened, he was transferred to the isolation unit at Lautoka hospital for specialized care. Despite the best efforts of our healthcare professionals he sadly passed away last night at the Lautoka Hospital Intensive Care Unit.
We at the Ministry of Health and Medical Services extend our deepest sympathies to his friends and family. We feel this loss across the Ministry, and his treating nurses and physicians mourn his passing most acutely. But we all take some solace in the fact that this gentleman was able to return to Fiji, and it is here he can be laid to rest –– in Fiji, his home.
Our Lautoka hospital colleagues have worked with the gentleman’s family to ensure funeral arrangements adhere to the necessary infection prevention and control protocols.
We had delayed announcement of this second fatality until the afternoon out of respect for the family’s wishes, as they requested that they be able to first hold this gentleman’s burial before they were thrust into the national spotlight. So, we were all shocked when the Fiji Sun jumped the gun with their report of his passing, even after we had specifically expressed to them to hold off for the sake of this gentleman’s loved ones.
We are deeply disappointed with the Fiji Sun’s lack of ethics in this instance. No media organisation should let moral imperatives be overridden by the insatiable desire to “be first” in their reporting. These are sensitive issues that demand decency from all of us –– and it’s shameful that the Fiji Sun is more focussed on making headlines than on granting this family the privacy to mourn their loss.
In fact, it is more than just indecent. Such reckless reporting puts unfounded fear in our people’s hearts, as they learn of a fatality from this deadly virus without any of the proper context provided.
We hope never to see such irresponsibility repeated.
I want to assure every Fijian watching that this latest fatality –– while tragic –– does not pose a risk to the public. It has now been 129 days since Fiji has recorded a new case of COVID-19 in our communities. We aim to maintain that unbroken streak. All health staff directly involved with the care of this patient have adhered to strict infection prevention and control protocols. Each will undergo quarantine in a government designated facility and must clear a negative COVID test result to be released.
As confirmed by our continual testing at the border and among the Fijian public, we are now one of the few countries –– if not the only country –– in the world to contend with an outbreak of the virus, contain that outbreak, and then go more than 100 days without a resurgence.
With over 23 million confirmed cases and 800,000 deaths from COVID-19 confirmed around the world, no one should take Fiji’s COVID-Contained status for granted. In our own neighbourhood, Australia –– and now New Zealand –– are both contending with new outbreaks of the virus, as are Papua New Guinea and French Polynesia.
In New Zealand’s case, given how effectively they stamped out their initial outbreak, their latest cluster of cases came as a surprise to all of us. But we are confident our Kiwi partners will act with the same decisiveness that served them so well in the past. We applaud New Zealand’s recent move to implement managed isolation for confirmed patients and mobilise the New Zealand Defence Force to enhance border security –– Fiji can attest these measures work.
New Zealand’s experience goes to show that Fijians cannot become complacent –– nor have we been. We have continued to test regularly for the virus in our communities and among our healthcare workers. All those tests have returned negative. Our testing positivity rate –– the single most important metric –– ranks among the lowest in the world at 0.4%.
On the technical side, we’ve been conducting exhaustive reviews of the guidelines within our Fijian COVID-Safe Economic Recovery Framework.
We’ve said from the start this a flexible framework that will evolve alongside our constantly changing global and local environment. Today, we’re announcing some amendments to Phase 2 of our COVID-Safe Economic Framework. These are mainly for the sake of consistency.
As per our last announcement, all gatherings are limited to 100 people. We’re amending that restriction, allowing for houses of worship, restaurants, cafes, entertainment venues, such as gaming centres, bars, pubs and conferences and meeting venues, swimming pools, common areas in boarding facilities, including weddings, funerals and other community gatherings to function at 50% capacity.
So, if a venue has a capacity for 500 people, it can now host up to 250 people. However, if a venue capacity is less than 200, it can continue to host events with 100 people or less. This applies to both indoor and outdoor facilities.
Up until now, we’ve been using the 50% capacity thresholds for sports stadiums. Just like with athletic events, these measures only work well when all Fijians take COVID Safe precautions.
That means we must maintain physical distance of 1.5 metres as much as possible; avoid shaking hands, kissing and hugging; queue responsibly; wash our hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser; cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of our elbows; and stay home if you’re feeling unwell.
Lastly –– and this is critically important –– please download the careFIJI contact tracing application. If you are organising an event, make sure everyone attending the event has careFIJI installed with the Bluetooth switched on. Seriously, when someone arrives, they should show that they have careFIJI on their phone. If not, they must manually sign in with someone at the front –– no exceptions.
We understand some nightclubs have sought to obtain a new business designation as taverns in the interest of re-opening their businesses. We fully appreciate that nightclub owners have seen a severe impact to their bottom-line due to our health restrictions –– but the reality is these businesses represent the highest-risk environments for the potential spread of the virus.
Moving forward, any requests from nightclubs to seek new business designations will be approved on a case-by-case basis, with compulsory input from the Ministry of Health. Our teams need to ensure these venues can operate in a COVID-safe manner before any new designation can be considered and they can re-open their doors.
Globally, countries have introduced protocols for diplomatic travel. Fiji has allowed diplomats to return to Fiji on a case-by-case basis and we will continue to do so.
Valid permit holders may also be permitted to return to Fiji on a case-by-case basis. We are also selectively granting new permits on a case-by-case basis for individuals who possess specialised skills that aid Fiji’s COVID-safe economic recovery. Existing and new permit holders must apply to the Permanent Secretary for Immigration to enter Fiji.
All applications for returning diplomats and permit holders –– old and new –– are subject to vetting by the Ministry of Health.
Travel arrangements for all travellers entering Fiji are designed entirely around preserving public health and wellbeing. All individuals must clear a negative test result for the virus before boarding their flight –– something we call a pre-departure test. That test result must be reviewed and approved by the Ministry of Health before the traveller departs for Fiji. Some may be required to test again upon arrival based on assessment of risk by the Ministry of Health. These individuals must then spend at least 14 days in a government-designated quarantine facility. After the quarantine period, individuals must clear another negative COVID test result –– something we call a border quarantine exit test –– before entering the country.
Non-citizens will be required to bear all costs related to quarantine and testing. Our entry and testing requirements are detailed on the Fijian Government’s website.
As we’ve said before, we understand this pandemic’s economic impacts, such as joblessness, can be just as dangerous as the direct health impacts of COVID-19. As recently stated by the Director General of the World Health Organisation “We do not need to choose between lives and livelihoods, or between health and the economy. That’s a false choice. On the contrary, the pandemic is a reminder that health and the economy are inseparable”.
Our Blue lanes initiative continues to operate safely and successfully. As of yesterday, 66 yachts have been approved under this initiative, with more yachts and superyachts on the way. To ensure superyachts can function properly, we’re allowing for crew changes. That means crew are being flown in to Fiji to join superyachts, allowing these vessels to be properly run and maintained for months at sea in Fiji.
Again, the requirements for entry into Fiji are strict. All crew must clear a pre-departure test, spend 14 days in quarantine, and then clear a border quarantine exit test.
We previously announced that travellers from Australia and New Zealand would be allowed to board flights to Fiji through two pathways. One, they could spend 14 days of quarantine in their home country, clear a negative COVID test and arrive in Fiji. Or they could clear a negative COVID test, spend 14 days of quarantine in a Fijian Government quarantine facility, and then embark through our VIP lanes to one of our specially designated resorts to begin their Bula Bubble vacation.
Unfortunately, due to new outbreaks of COVID-19, the Australian and New Zealand governments cannot certify home quarantine for potential travellers to Fiji, so we’ve closed that pathway for the time being. Otherwise, the Bula Bubble will continue to function as designed, as the second pathway remains open. All incoming travellers must conduct a pre-departure test, spend their 14 days in a Fijian Government-quarantine facility, and then clear a border quarantine test to begin their vacation.
Again, no one who arrives to Fiji is exempt from 14 days of quarantine and no one can enter Fijian society unless they clear a negative test result for COVID-19. Our health personnel and disciplined forces do have the capacity to make arrangements for alternative quarantine sites. However, the individual must bear the costs of their off-site supervision by members of our disciplined forces.
Our COVID-Safe Economic Recovery Framework was designed to be adaptable to the realities of the “new normal” and we fully expect more amendments moving forward. Throughout that ongoing review, every Fijian can trust that every one of our decisions are based on science and in line with best global practices.
To maintain Fiji’s COVID-Contained status, our vigilance is the only vaccine available to us. And we must all remain vigilant at all times. As always, we urge you to wash your hands, maintain physical distance where possible and install the careFIJI digital contact tracing application.
The Fijian government through the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) has issued the latest upgraded travel requirements relating to Fiji Citizen(s), Fiji Resident(s)/ Other Permit Holder(s) intending to travel to Fiji with immediate effect. The new test requirements include the format of the COVID – 19 test result that everyone traveling to Fiji has to adhere to. MHMS have requested that the following new procedures be implemented:
i. The Fiji Citizen(s)/ Fiji Residents(s)/ Other Permit Holder(s) must produce a recent negative COVID-19 RT-PCR or Cepheid GeneXpert (Xpert® Xpress SARS-CoV-2) test (for a nasopharyngeal sample taken not more than 72 hours before departure) following which approval will be granted to depart for Fiji.
ii. The test result must be in the form of the complete report from the laboratory that performed the test – on the laboratory letterhead. ( example attached)
iii. The Fiji Citizen(s)/ Fiji Residents(s)/ Other Permit Holder(s) with symptoms prior to boarding at port of departure will not be permitted to board the plane.
iv. All Fiji Citizen(s)/ Fiji Residents(s)/ Other Permit Holder(s) must undergo temperature and symptom check upon arrival at the airport. If symptoms are present a nasopharyngeal swab sample will be collected for a COVID-19 RT-PCR test at the cost of sponsor or individual returnee. The MHMS protocol for dealing with suspected cases will be applied. If the test is positive, he or she must remain in isolation under the care of MHMS but if the test is negative, he or she will be released to complete the mandatory quarantine in the designated Government quarantine facility. Attached below id the format of the report that Fijian authorities will be requiring all intending travellers to bring to Fiji.
v. The Fiji Citizen(s)/ Fiji Residents(s)/ Other Permit Holder(s) will be transferred from the airport to Government quarantine facility for a mandatory 14-days quarantine in a vehicle, driven by a local driver who will not come in contact with the principals and will wear Personal Protective equipment (PPE).
vi. The vehicle will be escorted by Republic of the Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) personnel from the airport to the Government quarantine facility at the cost of the sponsor or individual returnee.
vii. The 14 day quarantine period at the Government quarantine facility will be under the constant supervision of the RFMF and MHMS.
viii. While Fiji Citizen(s)/ Fiji Residents(s)/ Other Permit Holder(s) is/are in the Government quarantine facility, they must adhere to all quarantine requirements. MHMS officials will conduct regular temperature and symptom checks. If symptoms are present a nasopharyngeal swab sample will be collected for a COVID-19 RT-PCR test at the cost of sponsor or individual returnee. The MHMS protocol for dealing with suspected cases will be applied. If the test is positive, he or she must remain in isolation under the care of MHMS but if the test is negative he or she will be released to complete the mandatory quarantine.
ix. If the Fiji Citizen(s)/ Fiji Residents(s)/ Other Permit Holder(s) remain asymptomatic a nasopharyngeal swab collected at the end of the quarantine period for a COVID-19 RT-PCR test at the cost of the sponsor or the individual returnee. A negative test result will be required before release from quarantine. The sponsor or the individual returnee will meet all the cost associated to quarantine for which they must directly liaise with Government quarantine facility.
x. The MHMS will make the final determination to release the Fiji Citizen(s)/ Fiji Residents(s)/ Other Permit Holder(s) from quarantine.