Editorial comment – Take heed of safety tips

Locked out. Police officers did not allow any civilian to cross Lautoka’s borders yesterday. Check points were set up in Tuvu, Natalau and Vakabuli to stop any person from entering or leaving the City. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

The revelation that 10 family members of Fiji’s first two COVID-19 cases are in isolation will no doubt raise a lot of interest.

Those in isolation include a one-year-old child.

Those who came into contact with them could soon be quarantined.

This was the word from Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama yesterday.

He made the comment after announcing the country’s second confirmed coronavirus case, the 47-year-old mother of Fiji’s first patient, a 27-year-old flight attendant.

He said the first patient’s mother was asymptomatic when first isolated at the Nadi Hospital, meaning she did not display any symptoms at the time.

“She developed symptoms soon after entering isolation at Nadi Hospital. This is a good thing as it greatly reduces the likelihood she had transmitted the virus before isolation.

“Regardless, we are widening our contact tracing to identify anyone who she was in contact with within 24 hours prior to being isolated. These individuals will be quarantined and monitored as well.”

Mr Bainimarama said the second case was a sobering reminder that COVID-19 was extremely contagious and young people, while more likely to recover, could transmit the virus to more vulnerable members of society.

Yesterday the World Health Organization, in its situation report, announced six new countries/territories/areas (African Region (2), and Region of the Americas (2), and Western Pacific Region (2)) have reported cases of COVID-19.

To increase access to reliable information, WHO said it had partnered with WhatsApp and Facebook to launch a WHO Health Alert messaging service.

This service will provide the latest news and information on COVID-19, including details on symptoms and how people can protect themselves.

The Health Alert service is now available in English and will be introduced in other languages next week.

The first vaccine trial, the WHO said, has begun just 60 days after the genetic sequence of the virus was shared by China.

This was an incredible achievement, it said.

To ensure clear evidence of which treatments are most effective, the WHO and its partners are organising a large international study, called the Solidarity Trial, in many countries to compare different treatments.

Once again, we are reminded about how contagious this virus is.

The last thing we want though is for people to panic.

Let’s make it our business to understand COVID-19.

Let’s make it our business to embrace advice from experts, and ensure we stay safe with our loved ones.

The challenge remains with the powers that be to make important calls that are good for us all.

There will be interest in the measures it plans for Fijians as the crisis deepens around the world.

For starters though, the powers that be must remove any doubts and fear from the people.

That will mean continuing with awareness campaigns, ensuring any doubts, sense of insecurity and fear are removed.

There will be confidence when people clearly understand what COVID-19 is, the symptoms, and advice to keep it at bay.

Our challenge is how well we listen to safety tips, and how much importance we place on our own safety and that of our loved ones.

The last thing we want though is panic.

Stay safe Fiji.

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