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COVID-19 in the South Pacific- Part 2- Control and Maintenance. Community Mobility and Trends Report

Author: Dr. Sukheshni Nand (BDS)

As global communities respond to COVID-19, the south pacific community report aims to provide insights into what has changed in response to policies aimed at combating COVID-19.

On 1 May 2020, PNG recorded 8 cases of COVID-19 with full recovery of all cases (no deaths). Similarly, French Polynesia recorded 60 cases with full recovery of all cases (no deaths). While, New Caledonia recorded 19 cases with 18 recovered and 1 case active. [16].

In addition, other south pacific island countries such as Samoa, Kiribati, Tuvalu, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tonga have reported to be virus-free as of 18th May 2020 [14]. Many of these countries closed their borders early in 2020 and began quarantining suspected cases at the preliminary stages of the pandemic, hence preventing the virus from entering the nations [15].

Fiji recorded 18 cases, with 15 cases fully recovered and 3 active cases [13]. Out of the total number of cases in Fiji, 7 cases were in Lautoka, 1 in Nadera (Suva), 3 in Nabua (Suva), 5 in Vanua Levu, 1 in Nadi and 1 in Ba. The potential links of these cases were due to overseas travels from USA, Australia, India and New Zealand [5][13]. On 19th March, Fiji reported its first case of COVID-19 in Lautoka, prompting the government to announce a lockdown in Lautoka, the island nation’s second-largest city [18]. The lockdown was lifted after 22days on April 7 [10]. Furthermore, Suva went into lockdown on 3rd April while Soasoa (Labasa) went into lockdown on 4th April along with Vunicagi settlement in Dreketi that went into lockdown on 16th April [3][4].

Upon confirmation of COVID-19 in the Country, the Ministry's highly-trained contact team –– which effectively contained last year’s measles outbreak with the same contact-tracing methods were immediately put into action to identify all those with whom the patient have been in close contact [14]. Those points of contact were sought out and quarantined. The Republic of Fiji Military Forces and the Fiji Police Force have further strengthened the capacity of their contact team [14]. Thus, this reinforced the capacity to trace and quarantine all those potentially exposed to the virus [14].

On 15th May, the Prime Minister of Fiji announced that health directives will remain in place, including the nationwide curfew and social gathering limited to 20 people or less [11]. Other countries such as China are already experiencing a second wave of infections and Europe is bracing for the same [11]. Therefore, to avoid the risk of a second wave of COVID-19 happening in Fiji, all of the health protection directives will remain in full effect [11]. However, the Prime Minister of Fiji has confirmed that they will finalise the game plan for a gradual scale-back of some health protective directives but the good health habits would remain [8].

It was also stated that over 800,000 Fijians had already been health screened through the largest healthcare mobilisation campaign in Fijian history, and in the coming weeks the country will massively step-up testing as well. The Prime Minister of Fiji stated that under the digitalFIJI initiative, a mobile app called “careFIJI” has been developed that will harness our phones’ Bluetooth technology to make any future contact tracing faster, easier, and more effective. Thus, welcoming new and innovative ways to prevent resurgence of the disease [8][11].

On 16th April, it was reported that the lockdown of the confined Suva area was lifted at 5 am after a successful screening of around 180,000 Fijians [11]. Nonetheless, every other life-saving directive remains in place, including the nationwide curfew from 10 pm to 5 am [11]. However, the Nabua settlement, which was the site of three coronavirus cases, is still a high-risk region and remained locked down for an additional 14 days. Furthermore, after 28 days of lockdown, Soasoa (Labasa) and Vunicagi settlement (Dreketi) had its restrictions lifted on 3rd May and 15th May, respectively [1][2][7][9][12].

To ensure that country restrictions were being followed, the commissioner of Fiji police force stated that officers will arrest anyone disregarding COVID-19 restrictions without hesitation [6]. It was also stated that the quarantine period has been extended to a full 28 days as a result of case 17 showing symptoms after the initial 14 days mandatory isolation period [1][7]. To date, more than 1, 000 people have been arrested for these breaches in blatant disregard of directives from the government [1][7]

The Pacific nations continue to develop and strengthen competences in epidemiology, surveillance, outbreak investigation and management. Measures have been placed such as preparation and expansion of health services; widespread testing and tracing and; social distancing and personal quarantine measures. With the understanding of the people, adequate hygiene practices and proper communication, it will be possible to isolate the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the possibility of a second wave of the outbreak affecting the South Pacific in the future to come.

  1. FBC. Edwin Nand. Suva lockdown lifted, Nabua settlement remains in lockdown. 2020

  2. FBC. Elenoa Taragaiviu. Vunicagi settlement restriction lifted. 2020

  3. FBC News. Elenoa Turagaiviu. Government locks down part of Soasoa in Labasa. 2020

  4. FBC News. Elenoa. Turagagaiviu. Vunicagi settlement under lockdown. 2020

  5. FBC News. Ritika Pratap. 17 COVID-19 cases; newest from Vanua Levu

  6. Fiji Police Force. Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho. Keep In Mind The Curfew Hours From 8pm To 5am Daily. 2020

  7. FijiSun. Jennis Naidu. COVID-19: Suva Lockdown Lifted, Quarantine Period Extended To 28 Days. 2020

  8. The Fiji Times. Timoci Vula. COVID-19: Fiji finalises plan to gradually scale-back some restrictions. 2020

  9. FijiSun. Laisa Lui. Soasoa lockdown lifted, Residents Happy. 2020

  10. FijiVillage. Naveel Krishant. Lockdown on Kashmir, Lautoka Lifted. 2020

  11. FijiVillage. Vijay Narayan. Health directives remain in relation to COVID-19 to avoid second wave of cases – PM. 2020

  12. FijiSun. Jennis Naidu. COVID-19: Suva Lockdown Lifted, Quarantine Period Extended To 28 Days. 2020

  13. Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Fiji. Fiji Covid-19 cases/clusters. 2020.) (FBC News. Ritika Pratap. 17 COVID-19 cases; newest from Vanua Levu

  14. The Fijian Government. Pm Bainimarama’s Statement On The First Covid-19 Case In Fiji. 2020

  15. The World Bank. The World Bank In Pacific Islands, 2020

  16. Worldometer. Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic. 2020. Available at:

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