Dr Fong: Omicron was already in Fiji

Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Health and Medical Services Dr James Fong stresses a point during the joint press conference between Ministry of Tourism and Police. Picture: RAMA

The increase in Omicron cases in Fiji cannot solely be attributed to the reopening of Fiji’s international border.

This, according to Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr James Fong.

He said the Omicron variant was already in Fiji, even before the ministry recorded the first two cases at the border.

Dr Fong made the comment in response to queries from this newspaper on how the variant was now widespread in communities, considering the fact that the ministry had initially reported two Omicron border cases.

“Now, you all know that Omicron, on the day we reported it, was already in our quarantine facility,” he said.

“The day it was reported, it was already in many of our travel partner countries. “Nobody knew it was there. We only got aware of it after we started opening.

“So it is of no surprise to me that we had Omicron in our community.

“We cannot attribute it just to the opening. This is the very natural way that highly visible viruses happen.”

Dr Fong said the ministry’s border quarantine measures were only focused on avoiding a variant coming into Fiji that the rest of the world has not yet known about.

“If we become the focus of the first variant identified, all the initial punitive measures that they do against countries will start from there.

“So that is what we want to avoid.

“And that’s why most of our protocols, we’re targeting red-listed countries with an escalated departure on the protocols and we are targeting them with longer quarantine measures.

“I think that the question of whether opening the border has contributed to Omicron is not relevant in this space because of the high transmissibility of the virus.

“I think that it was here even before those two cases came in.”

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