Fiji braces for more Covid-19 deaths as outbreak worsens

·2-min read

Fijian authorities have warned of a rising death toll from Covid-19 as an outbreak of the Delta variant threatened to overwhelm the South Pacific nation's health system.

Two more deaths were reported Saturday, along with hundreds of new infections just days after the country recorded its biggest-ever daily increase.

"The steady increase in average daily case numbers in combination with other indicators suggest higher daily numbers of cases, hospitalisations, and deaths in the coming weeks," Permanent Health Secretary James Fong said in a statement on Friday.

Fiji went an entire year without recording any community coronavirus cases until April when it was hit by a second wave of the quick-spreading Delta variant, which was first identified in India.

Since May, cases have rocketed from just over a hundred to more than 5,600, with the death toll now 27.

The wave has forced an indoor sporting complex in the capital Suva to be converted into a field clinic, as Fiji's largest hospital is already overflowing with cases.

The national university has also become a temporary hub for frontline workers fighting the outbreak, with its campus hostel now housing hospital staff and medical students enlisted to help contract tracers.

Fiji's largest island, Viti Levu, has so far been the epicentre but two cases were recently found on Vanua Levu, and Gau Island went into lockdown earlier this week.

The government has resisted calls for a national lockdown, with Fong previously questioning whether the country could adequately enforce it in remote communities.

"I don't believe we can sustain the benefit of a lockdown, not economically and not in terms of saying the virus will stop moving," he said.

Only about one percent of Fiji's 930,000 people have been fully vaccinated, with the Red Cross blaming misinformation spread online for hampering the rollout.

str-al/qan

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