COVID-19: Fiji’s Health Ministry stands by decision to delay official death announcement

A Lautoka resident speaks to officers at a lockdown entry point into the Lautoka Hospital last night. Picture: REPEKA NASIKO

Fiji’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services has stood by its decision to delay the announcement of the death of the 53-year-old patient at Lautoka hospital who tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday.

Health ministry permanent secretary Dr James Fong said that allowed the family a window of privacy before the passing of their loved one was announced to the nation.

At his daily COVID-19 briefing tonight, he said they had learned of the patient’s passing just before the press briefing last night but they chose to delay making the official announcement until they could properly inform the family members.

“No family should learn about the death of a loved one on the news or one social media if that can be avoided,” Dr Fong said.

Earlier today, the ministry had issued a press statement to announce the death.

The deceased was admitted for a surgical procedure that was successfully performed but he later developed respiratory symptoms –and was moved into intensive care unit yesterday when his condition deteriorated.

“Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the ICU team, he passed away just a few hours later with time of death at 6.35pm,” Dr Fong said.

The revelation of this case resulted in the complete lockdown of the Lautoka hospital last night and is now a tightly contained COVID care facility.

Dr Fong said this man’s death may technically be Fiji’s third fatality due to COVID-19.

However, he said it was the country’s first death from a locally transmitted case of the virus.

“So our sorrow – this time – is matched by an extreme sense of urgency to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, and to prevent more vulnerable Fijians from succumbing to this deadly virus.”

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