We’ve had today circled on the calendar as the one-year mark since our last case of COVID-19 outside of a border quarantine facility. As of today, that record stands. However, yesterday we became aware of a new border quarantine case that could pose a risk of transmission beyond the border which requires immediate steps, from all of us, to mitigate.
This case of the virus has been detected during a routine test of a member of our security forces working within a quarantine facility. We know he contracted the virus anytime from one to six days prior and that he interacted with other daytime staff in the quarantine facility during that time. That means there may have been some exposure outside of the facility that we have to manage.
When it comes to containing a disease as insidious as the coronavirus, the risks are simply too high to take chances. We have known that from Day One. And we are responding to this case with the same extreme precaution we have employed from the start of the pandemic.
Last night, we began entering into quarantine staff who were working in the facility during the potential window for transmission and also members of their households.
There are some factors working in our favour. Number one, the soldier had received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That means his risk of severe infection is reduced and it is likely his risk of transmission was lower. But that doesn’t mean we can afford to take any chances. Particularly given the rise of new and more contagious variants of COVID-19 around the world. If he hadn’t received that first dose, the risk to him and others would have been much higher.
As we continue to identify other potential contacts tied to this case, I cannot stress enough how important it is that we adhere to the habits of handwashing and physical distancing, where possible, that have kept Fiji safe through today. If you are called by our Ministry of Health and Medical Services teams as a potential contact, please come forward immediately.
We have been exploring the relaxation of some of our remaining health restrictions, including the capacity of large public events and the curfew hours, in particular as vaccines have been administered. Unfortunately, that will have to wait until we are certain this case does pose a risk to the public. In fact, we should prepare for these measures to become more stringent if we find there has been transmission to the public. For now, do not gather and do not travel unless it is essential. Large gatherings, especially, are not safe.
Nothing suggests there was a breach of protocol at this stage and we will continue to strengthen our procedures to further reduce the risk of transmission within our quarantine facilities.
We will update you with new developments. For now, stay safe and listen out for updates from the Ministry of Health and Medical Services. Vinaka.