Threat of coronavirus community transmission in Fiji re-emerges

Suva, New Zealand, April 26 2021: The pacific island nation Fiji that remained relatively untouched by the corona virus, with just 100 infections and 2 deaths in a population of 930,000, experienced a blow to its hope of entering the trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia and New Zealand when a COVID 19 spike from a super-spreader funeral resulted in a country wide lock-down.

The capital Suva is expected to enter a strict 14 day lock-down and a 100,000 people must stay under containment and all non-essential businesses are closed after the first cases of the virus were detected after an infection free period of 12 months. Strict isolation from the outside world and border controls meant Fiji was able to largely contain the virus.

The scare began when a soldier who contracted the virus at a quarantine facility transferred it to a maid who then attended a funeral and ended up exposing 500 people to the virus.

James Fong, the country’s permanent secretary for health and medical services, said four new cases emerged over the weekend. According to Fong, three of those 4 are from people who attended the funeral and include a husband and wife who circulated through the community. While it is not yet clear how the fourth person, a woman who has been placed under quarantine with her husband and hails from the outskirts of Suva, contacted the virus.Fong said it is prudent to enforce the lock down since the source and movements of all the people infected have not yet been tracked

This outbreak means that tourism dependent Fiji is now cut off from Australia and New Zealand, the source of most of its international visitors. The country’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism which has all but evaporated during the pandemic, seeing a 99% decrease.

Last week, Fiji’s neighbours, Australia and New Zealand opened a trans-Tasman bubble, allowing quarantine-free travel between the two countries but contact by New Zealand has been suspended since a fresh corona outbreak in Perth.

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