Fiji 'hit harder than India' as grim new Covid record set

·4-min read

Fiji has reported a dire new coronavirus record as the government urges its residents to steer clear of home remedies as a treatment for the virus.

According to data published on Wednesday, a new daily record of 791 new cases were recorded, along with three new deaths, all men aged 61, 67 and 75-years-old.

"Daily case numbers are expected to continue to increase, along with an increase in people with Covid-19 requiring hospitalisation, and sadly, more deaths," the health ministry said in a statement.

Fiji 'hit harder than India' by Delta strain

Less than one million people live in Fiji and since the pandemic started, the island country has reported 42 Covid-related deaths – 40 of those since the Delta variant emerged in April.

A growing coronavirus outbreak in Fiji is stretching the health system and devastating the economy. Source: AP
A growing coronavirus outbreak in Fiji is stretching the health system and devastating the economy. Source: AP

Kate Greenwood, head the Pacific delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said relative to population size, Fiji had been hit harder by the virus than India at the height of its outbreak.

"The worse it gets, the bigger the warning sign for other Pacific countries about the desperate need at this stage to prepare for what could happen," Ms Greenwood told Reuters by telephone from Suva.

The government has said some patients are seeking treatment too late and the main hospital's mortuary was full. Some victims were also dying at home, it said.

The government has resisted a lockdown, but has urged people to take precautions and obey social distancing rules.

The Fijian Government's distribution initiative saw Fiji Police Force Officers and staff from Shop N Save Supermarket deliver household items to people in lockdown or isolation around the capital, Suva.

Police patrol a residential area to check people are wearing face masks in Suva on July 3, as a worsening Covid-19 outbreak overwhelms the South Pacific nation's largest hospital. Source: AFP via Getty Images)
Police patrol a residential area to check people are wearing face masks in Suva on July 3, as a worsening Covid-19 outbreak overwhelms the South Pacific nation's largest hospital. Source: AFP via Getty Images

Neil Sharma, a doctor and former Fiji health minister, told Reuters he would like to see a two-week lockdown.

"Unlike some developed countries where people are able to lock down and stay indoors, people are still running around, some of them without masks, and it's not an easy situation," he said.

Government advises against home remedies 

On Wednesday, a government media release said they are continuing to see people with severe cases of Covid-19 dying in their homes or seeking medical attention in the late stages of the illness and dying "a day or two" later.

"Severe COVID-19 is a medical emergency and a delay in receiving appropriate medical treatment may result in a higher risk of death," the statement said.

In a release issued on Tuesday, the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services warned against people using home remedies to treat Covid-19.

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"Steam inhalation therapy (kuvui) is commonly used as a home remedy to provide relief from congested nasal passages, and symptoms of cold or inflamed sinuses, or other mild COVID-19 symptoms," the statement said.

"However, steam therapy is not a treatment for severe COVID-19. Severe COVID-19 is a medical emergency, and relying completely on home remedies can delay urgent medical treatment."

In a lengthy statement shared to the Fijian Government's Facebook page, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said people were welcome to use steam therapy and hot drinks but said they are "not a substitute for being vaccinated".

"Vaccines are the best possible protection, not only for us but for those around us; those in our homes; those who ride the bus with us; those who share our places of work," the statement said. 

"Remember, this is not only about protecting ourselves — getting vaccinated is a responsibility we all owe to each other."

He said Fiji had both the tools and the knowledge to fight the pandemic, but "many" are "not doing enough", adding vaccination efforts would ramp up in the next week.

Mr Bainimarama said he had both doses of a Covid vaccine and said Australia, India and New Zealand had supplied enough doses for every adult in Fiji.

He called on people to not fall victim to baseless conspiracy theories pertaining to vaccines.

"I can tell you I have not been magnetised or microchipped by the vaccine," he said. 

"I have not received the mark of the beast, or any other creature. The vaccine does not do that to anyone — not me nor any of the over 335,000 Fijians who have already received one or both doses."

He said a strict lockdown could not be enforced in Fiji, claiming experts say it would not kill off the virus, but would destroy jobs and "kill our country's future".

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