After another 2217 tests yesterday, another daily record of testing, we have confirmed 12 new cases of COVID-19 since our last briefing. All of these cases are from Makoi and are close contacts of case 140, the woman who presented to the Makoi Health Centre yesterday with COVID symptoms. Four of our positive patients are her household members, seven are from an adjoining home, and one is a secondary contact. All have been entered into isolation. 

As mentioned yesterday, case 140 presented to Makoi Health Centre, and was immediately treated as a suspected case by the medical staff, who provided care in full personal protective equipment. And once she tested positive that same day, we quickly were able to identify the people with whom that person had come into close contact, so we were able to take immediate measures to help to stop the spread. This shows that our reporting, screening, testing and contact-tracing procedures are working as they were intended.

However, we know that since a large number of this person’s close contacts have now tested positive, this means that there has been a significant amount of movement and potential for transmission of the virus to others. Case 140’s travel history, and the work history of one of her contacts, has required we close three grocery stores in Suva for decontamination. We’re also testing the employees. Those stores are not being closed indefinitely. They will reopen as soon as decontamination is completed. 

The contact between this individual and members of an adjoining household is troubling –– and it should serve as a learning opportunity for all of us. Our bubbles must be limited to our households –– to the people who share the four walls of our home, not our neighbours, not our friends, not even our family from across the road, we should only interact with the members of our household and no one else. Call your friends, call your family, call your neighbors –– do not see them or visit with them. Please do not party your way into an isolation facility. If you are outside, it must be for an essential reason. If you interact with others who are not members of your household, it should happen two metres apart and both of you should be wearing masks properly. 

Let’s remember, this cluster began with another case of unknown origin. So that means there could still be a contagious case or cases among the public we have yet to identify that may still pose a threat to all of us every time we make the decision to leave our homes. Home is where you are safest. If you leave the home, wear a mask and make sure you have careFIJI installed with Bluetooth switched on. 

Based on the worrying rise of clusters and cases, I’ve been working with my fellow permanent secretaries, as well as the private sector, on scenario-planning based on the results of our continuous testing –– that includes the possibility of a full lockdown of Viti Levu. 

In that event, our priority is on locking down the virus in the active fashion I spoke on yesterday. For the lockdown to be decisive, it must be well-planned and prolonged enough to last for the entire incubation period. 

The goal of the lockdown is to stop all unnecessary movement and mixing between different people. Informal gatherings and other high-risk activities will carry significant penalties. Essential movement will be highly-controlled. Businesses and the private sector must take on a much higher level of responsibility if they expect to operate at all.  I want to assure the public that –– if we take the lockdown route –– they will be given ample notice, not hours, but days, to prepare and for government to allocate resources appropriately.

When I can, I like to end these announcements with some good news –– news that shines a light on everyday heroes, and that shows the strength of the Fijian spirit despite the challenge we face today. 

The MV Veivueti, our medical carrier vessel, was dispatched to Lautoka to offer healthcare services soon after we transformed Lautoka Hospital into a self-contained COVID care facility. Today, onboard the vessel, a surgical team performed the first Caesarean section operation, delivering a healthy baby boy to a very proud mum. Almost in time for mother’s day. 

As part of our delivery team was a midwife who came out of retirement to serve the nation in our hour of need. She came forward because she knew her talents could be put to use. She came forward because she’s a proud Fijian –– ready to give more of her time and effort on top of the lifetime she’s already spent caring for her fellow Fijians. That is the spirit that will guide us through this crisis –– a spirit of selfless solidarity. We can’t all deploy on medical vessels to perform life-saving emergency surgeries. But we can all take simple steps –– like good hand washing, like maintaining physical distance, like avoiding gatherings, and like installing careFIJI –– that protect our most vulnerable Fijians and that pave the way to better days for the nation. Let’s take them together. Let’s do this together. We can, we have, and we will again. 

Thank you.