Michael Baker: Covid-hit Fiji 'really running out of choices'

Fiji's medical authorities are warning its systems are overwhelmed as an exponential number of new cases have hit the country.

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The nation’s medical authorities are warning its systems are overwhelmed. Source: 1 NEWS

It's now bracing for the worst - the latest Covid cases have reached a record high of 279 in just 24 hours with four deaths.

There are now close to 2500 cases as the head of Health Protection at Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services says she’s concerned about the “next wave”.

“What we are most concerned about is the next wave, the wave of people with severe illness requiring hospitalisation and the deaths that will come with it,” Dr Aalisha Sahukhan says.

“We’ve just started to see what we think is that new wave coming now,” she says.

Medical authorities are predicting they could see up to 700 cases a day and by August, as many as 600 deaths with 50,000 people infected.

Services are already overwhelmed and there are signs infrastructure is starting to fail.

“Within the Suva Nausori zone, its largely overwhelmed our contact tracing capacity, essentially what we were afraid of and warned would happen when this outbreak started two months ago, is happening now,” Sahukhan says.

Epidemiologist, Professor Michael Baker says New Zealand would have been in lockdown by now.

“This is really a grim situation for Fiji, certainly if it were obviously in the New Zealand context we would have done a very short intense lockdown now to minimise transmission,” he says.

Professor Michael Baker. Source: 1 NEWS

But as medical authorities struggle, the Fiji government continues to rule out a full lockdown.

“If you don’t do this you are left with basic measures focussing on cases of testing, contact tracing - that capacity looks like it’s completely overwhelmed already in Fiji so that really isn’t effective anymore, so you are really running out of choices at the moment,” Baker says.

The rapidly climbing Covid numbers reflect that - the daily test positivity rate stands at 4.9 per cent. At five per cent, transmission is considered widespread and uncontrolled.

“You have many people living in informal settlements with overcrowding, multi-generational households, so they are very vulnerable,” Baker says.

There are currently nine Covid positive cases in intensive care, the Fiji government is relying on vaccinations to save lives but herd immunity is a long way off.

Fiji’s secretary of health, Dr James Fong says international healthcare workers have been brought in to help manage the outbreak.

“As you can see, we have brought in a few people from Australia and New Zealand to come and help us strengthen the hospital care system and ensure we strengthen the protocols that are required in order to treat the worst case scenario,” he says.