Health authorities in Fiji have stepped up travel protocols as cases of Covid-19 dramatically increase in the country which reopened to international visitors on 1 December.
From 1 January 2022, travellers to Fiji must now produce a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test taken no more than two calendar days before the scheduled day of departure, the government said on Wednesday.
Prior to this, travellers had to return a negative PCR test 72 hours before leaving for Fiji.
The Health Ministry made changes to its travel protocols overnight as senior officials prepared for a possible third wave of the coronavirus outbreak.
Health Secretary James Fong said inspections had started in the northern division where the majority of its current infections have been reported.
On Monday, Dr Fong confirmed there were 208 new cases of Covid-19 in the community but he did not say how many of these cases were tourists.
Dr Fong, who is in Labasa this week, said the government was conducting readiness checks across the country to ensure its public health infrastructure was ready for future outbreaks.
“I came to do a health facility and systems readiness check. [We are] starting with the north because they have never experienced a high level outbreak,” he said.
“We are conducting it in all divisions. I’m pleased with vaccine coverage in the north because the two dose coverage for 18 plus [age group] is 85 percent and for 15 to 17 years old is 75 percent.”
1% of travellers to Fiji arrive with Covid-19 – Tourism CEO
By week’s end, Fiji will have recorded 30,000 visitor arrivals since the 1 December, and Tourism Fiji chief executive Brent Hill said just under 1 percent of those visitors have come into Fiji with Covid-19.
Hill said changes to the pre-departure PCR tests for travellers into Fiji was designed to minimise infection risks, because the authorities had found that tourists were getting infected in the 72-hour period before arriving into Fiji.
“What we are seeing with Omicron is that it is pretty transmissible and we wanted to make sure that, as much as possible, we can try and eliminate Covid coming into Fiji via tourists and keep that test positivity rate very low.
“There’s certainly no guarantee, but it’s the best we can do. We obviously appeal to people to avoid high-risk settings.”
Hill said no tourist who had Covid-19 needed hospitalisation and were all currently isolating within the segmented part of their hotels.
“The positivity rate in Fiji for tourists is still very, very low. Obviously, we’re trying to reduce that and control that as much as we can. And we think this measure will take it even lower,” Hill said.
“The good news is that of the cases that we have seen, because they’re fully vaccinated, the vast majority are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.”
Tourism Fiji will continue to ‘keep its guard up’ and reinforce Covid-safe protocols within the industry.
“The one thing I would say to everybody is, if you can get a booster, and you qualify for one, get one,” Hill said.
For this second wave, Dr Fong said there had been 52,953 cases recorded, with 71 percent of the cases from the Central Division, 28 percent from the Western Division, and 1 percent of the cases were from the Eastern and Northern divisions.
“Of the 208 cases [reported on Monday], 145 cases were recorded in the North; 32 in the West and 31 cases were recorded in the Central Division.
“Our national seven-day rolling average is eight daily cases calculated for 23 December, 2021.”
Dr Fong said 91.9 percent of the adult population had been fully vaccinated, while 97.7 percent were yet to receive their second dose of the vaccine.
He said 39,857 children aged 12 to 17 were also fully vaccinated, while 58,260 teenagers in Fiji were yet to get their second injection.
Fiji has a total of 487 active cases of Covid-19 in isolation, with the death toll at 697.
Dr Fong said 21 Covid-19 patients were in hospital in the Central Division.