2019 – nCoV: Fiji closely monitors coronavirus outbreak

Passengers arrive at LAX from Shanghai, China, after a positive case of the coronavirus was announced in the Orange County suburb of Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 26, 2020. REUTERS/Ringo Chiu

FIJI’S Ministry of Health and Medical Services is closely monitoring the present outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019 – nCoV) in China as it continues its efforts to prepare for its potential introduction to Fiji.

At present, the ministry has confirmed that there are no confirmed cases of 2019 – nCoV in Fiji or any other Pacific island country.

What is Fiji doing?

In response to this increased threat, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services is working closely with relevant government ministries, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners to enhance its public health systems to rapidly detect, test and respond if a case is identified in Fiji.

It stated this was because the international spread of the disease was best stopped by rapid containment efforts at the source, and early detection and response, and not by implementing unnecessary restrictions to international travel.

“Travel bans have been proven to be ineffective in stopping infectious diseases crossing borders, and may in fact worsen the impact of an outbreak. Fiji did not impose travel bans during the SARS epidemic in 2003 nor the H1N1 influenza (swine flu) pandemic in 2009,” the ministry stated.

“Most countries worldwide have not implemented travel bans in response to this outbreak in China, and they are not recommended by the World Health Organisation.”

The statement said that alongside other countries globally, including New Zealand, Australia and the United States, Fiji had intensified efforts to reduce the risk of the virus being introduced and spreading in Fiji through a multilayered approach, including early identification of cases at the international borders and in the community, targeted awareness for high-risk persons, in particular, travelers visiting or returning from affected areas, and enhancing the skills and resources of our health staff to rapidly respond if a case is identified.

“As a core part of Fiji’s preparedness for the possible introduction of the virus, the ministry is working with international border control stakeholders, including airlines and airport and port authorities, to enhance existing mechanisms to detect ill travelers at international points of entry.

“Under Fijian legislation, airlines and vessels are required to report any ill passengers prior to disembarking.

“All travelers arriving on flights from Hong Kong and Singapore undergo additional health screening. And as an added health screening measure, all incoming passengers will soon be required to complete s supplementary arrivals card – an Arrival Health Declaration Form- to help ensure all travelers are checked for their potential exposure to the virus.”

From today (Wednesday, January 29, 2020), the Ministry of Health and Medical Services will begin providing refresher training to health workers on infection prevention and control measures, ensuring they are aware and equipped with the correct procedures and protective wear to safely respond to any potential cases.

What can you do?

While the ministry awaits further information about this new disease, members of the public are reminded that staying calm and continuing to practice good hygiene is important in helping to protect them against many diseases.

This include:

  • Frequently cleaning hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
  • When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough;
  • Avoid non-essential travel to mainland China
  • If you have been to China in the last 14 days and develop any of the symptoms (fever, cough or difficulty breathing), immediately contact one of the numbers listed below;
  • If you need to see a doctor please call ahead, using the following phone numbers, before visiting to reduce the risk of infecting other patients – Central – 2219905 ; Eastern – 2219906 ; Western – 2219907 ; Northern – 2219908.

(Source: Ministry of Health and Medical Services)

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is monitoring the developing situation and will provide updates regularly to the public.

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