Permanent Secretary for Health, Doctor James Fong has confirmed the two travellers from Africa currently in quarantine are confirmed positive for the Omicron variant.
The Ministry of Health and Medical Services announced last week that travellers who had arrived from an African state and were undergoing quarantine in a border quarantine facility had tested positive for COVID-19.
Their samples had been sent to the reference laboratory in Australia for urgent genomic sequencing.
Doctor Fong says the two travellers are Fijian citizens who had travelled back into Fiji from Nigeria, arriving on Fiji Airways flight FJ1392 from Hong Kong on November 25th – the day the discovery of the Omicron variant was announced internationally.
Both travellers tested negative for COVID-19 before departure and before they left Nigeria.
Doctor Fong says they entered a government-designated border quarantine facility immediately upon arrival into Fiji, tested positive while in quarantine, currently have no symptoms, and were fully vaccinated.
With the exception of four passengers, all those on the flight were from non-travel partner countries, and therefore entered a border quarantine facility upon arrival to undergo the full quarantine protocol of 10 days.
Doctor Fong says that has since been extended to 14 days.
The four passengers on the flight who were from a travel partner country have tested negative.
The Fiji Airways crew and accompanying passengers from FJ 1392 have tested negative at least twice.
Doctor Fong says the indications are that we have averted community transmission at this time, and the measures they had put in place to prevent, or at least delay, community transmission through the importation of cases from red zone countries have worked well so far.
He says Fiji’s red zone designated countries are countries that we consider at high risk of proliferating variants.
These are countries with low vaccination rates, poor testing data, and an ongoing outbreak.
Doctor Fong says as previously highlighted, the protocols in place for the red zone countries were to isolate for 5 days and test negative twice before we approve their re-entry.
In Fiji, they undergo 14 days of strict quarantine and testing in a government-designated border quarantine facility.
Doctor Fong says the evidence on Omicron variant’s impact on the transmissibility of the virus, severity of disease, and effect of prior immunity (from vaccination or infection) is still in the very early stages so conclusions cannot be made yet.
However, he says the preliminary evidence is that this variant may be more transmissible than the Delta variant; it may cause reinfection in people who have been previously infected with another variant; and it has been seen to infect people who are fully vaccinated – although, so far, the fully vaccinated cases have been generally mild or with no symptoms.
The Permanent Secretary says it must be re-emphasized that, if a variant is transmissible enough, stringent border and community measures will only delay the inevitable entry and spread of current and future variants of the COVID-19 virus, especially as the Omicron variant is also spreading into some of our travel partner countries.
He says to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our country, we must all get vaccinated when it is our turn, and even with our high vaccination levels, we must maintain COVID safe habits: mask wisely by carrying a well-fitted mask when you leave your home and wear the mask properly in public indoor spaces, public service vehicles, and outdoor crowded spaces; open windows to improve ventilation; avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces; 2-metre physical distancing and ensure you are wearing a mask if you cannot maintain distance; cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue, wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
SOURCE: FIJI VILLAGE