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By Lice Movono, RNZ Pacific correspondent in Suva

Fiji’s Health Secretary Dr James Fong confirms that the country has recorded 150 new cases in the 24-hour period ending at 8am June 19 as authorities prepare for deployment of a medical team with specialists from Australia and New Zealand.

One hundred and seventeen cases are from known clusters.

Two cases presented to the Fiji Emergency Medical Assistance Team (FEMAT) field hospital at the Vodafone Arena are under investigation and four cases are under investigation from Totogo police.

Dr Fong said the Colonial War Memorial Hospital (CWMH) cluster had 32 new cases.

“A new cluster has been identified at the Nasese Medical Centre with one new case reported today, adding to the six cases already in this cluster.

Seven cases are primary contacts of other cases – this includes 3 cases from Charles Street in Toorak.

Twenty-three cases are currently under investigation and considered as cases of community transmission.

Death investigations complete
Investigations into the death of a 49-year-old at CWM Hospital reported on Friday are now complete.

The patient’s doctors at the hospital have determined that his death was a result of the severe non-covid-19 pre-existing medical condition that he was receiving treatment for during his admission at the hospital and not covid-19.

Twenty-one more covid-19 patients have recovered, which means there are now 1311 active cases in isolation.

There have been 1728 cases during this outbreak that started in April.

Fiji has recorded a total of 1798 cases since the first case was reported in March 2020.

There have been 473 recoveries and six deaths due to covid-19, with four of the deaths during the outbreak that started in April 2021.

A total of eight covid-19 positive patients have died from pre-existing non-covid-19 related illnesses.

So far 124,264 samples have been tested since this outbreak started in April 2021, with 167,125 tested since testing began in early 2020.

NZ and Australia medics to be deployed to Fiji
At the request of Fijian medical authorities, the Australian government has approved the deployment of a medical team to assist the country.

A media statement issued by Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Marise Payne with Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Senator Zed Seselja, confirmed that the Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) would be in Fiji for an initial 28-day period.

Senator Payne did not say how many people would form the AUSMAT team but explained the members were from Australia and New Zealand and from various specialities in medicine.

AUSMAT is similar to Fiji Emergency Medical Assistance Team (FEMAT), which are emergency medical teams globally verified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as being able to provide a broad range of medical and emergency services in the field in times of crisis.

FEMAT had set up field hospitals in Lautoka, when the city’s hospital was locked down earlier in this current outbreak, and at the Vodafone Arena at Laucala Bay in the capital Suva.

Earlier this week Dr Fong said the Fijian government had requested AUSMAT support with scenario planning.

“We have extra space to deploy for field hospitals and we have extra critical care capacity we have yet to activate. They come to help us plan beyond that,” he said.

Doctors, nurses and paramedics
The Australian version deploys doctors, nurses, paramedics and logisticians to provide medical care in the Asia Pacific region including after Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston in February 2016.

AUSMAT teams are drawn from state and territory health services, but this time includes New Zealand nationals.

“The team will work with the Fijian Ministry of Health and will provide immediate support for health system management and infection prevention control, as well as assessments of Fiji’s priority health needs,” Senator Payne said.

“Australia has also sent 1.3 tonnes of personal protective equipment, medical supplies, including 500 thermal guns for health screening teams, testing equipment and laboratory consumables since the beginning of the current outbreak in April 2021,” she said.

“The health security of our near neighbours is a critical priority for Australia.”

The support is part of the Australian government’s covid-19 support to Fiji worth A$83.5 million for 2021.

Meanwhile, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have supplied more than 1.6 million urgent medical supplies and 9450 diagnostic testing kits to support Fiji in the ongoing detection and containment of the coronavirus disease pandemic.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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