By Lice Movono, RNZ
Fiji's Covid-19 cases continue to escalate as medical authorities today confirmed another record-breaking 166 people have been infected with the virus.
This includes a death at the Colonial War Memorial (CWM) Hospital in the capital, Suva.
Fiji's government has stopped providing information about where the new cases are and the Health Ministry admitted that community transmission was now "broad".
Health Secretary James Fong said the latest death is a 77-year-old man detected by a CWM Hospital screening team at his home where he had been bed-ridden for several months.
Despite the fact that he had pre-existing medical conditions, Dr Fong said doctors assessing clinical data have attributed the cause of death to Covid-19.
The man is the seventh person to die from the virus in Fiji, the fifth in this outbreak alone, Fong said.
Cases in the small township of Lami, just outside the capital, continue to increase and "so measures to ensure safe passage of people from affected containment zones to safe areas on the main island Viti Levu and to other islands is a focus of the Government".
"The current priority is therefore to prevent the export of cases into non-containment zones. As such, any request to move outside of the Central Division to other areas of Viti Levu and from Viti Levu to Vanua Levu and the Maritime zone needs to be strictly regulated," Fong said.
"Pre-departure swab tests and quarantine capability are being expanded and strengthened to reduce the risk of spread within and beyond the main island, Viti Levu."
Fong said the majority of the weekend's new cases were linked to existing clusters, so the Government will post heat maps on its digital platforms "to delineate case distribution within the Central and Western divisions".
He added everyone should practise Covid-safe measures when they leave their homes irrespective of where they reside or are going.
Another 50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Fiji on Saturday as part of the Australian Government's support.
Fiji's vaccination programme now moves onto the outer islands of the Northern and Eastern divisions of the country, Fong said.
Fiji's vaccine of choice remains AstraZeneca, despite Australia discontinuing its use for the under-60 age group.
Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt announced earlier that the AstraZeneca vaccine would be recommended for use in people over 60, and those under 60 would be offered the Pfizer shot.
Canberra accepted advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) after two women died from an extremely rare blood clotting disorder and 60 Australians out of the 3.8 million who received the shot developed blood clots.
Australia has provided Fiji with 250,000 doses of its manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine as part of its commitment to provide 1 million doses to its Pacific neighbour.
In response to concerns about Australia's change of vaccine policy, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative Office in the Pacific and Fiji's Health Ministry issued a joint statement.
They said that after vaccinating 25,6018 people (44 per cent of the adult population) with one dose of AstraZeneca and administering two doses to 17,990 people, there were no confirmed cases of serious adverse effects in Fiji.
The statement said Covid-19 vaccination remains one of Fiji's most effective response measures.
"Australia's decision does not change the approach for us here in Fiji. Given the current community transmission and Covid-19 variant, all unvaccinated individuals are at risk from the virus.
"It is also important to remember that serious adverse events following immunisation with the AstraZeneca vaccine remain rare events."
Further, the WHO continues to recommend Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines for individuals aged 18 years and over, the statement said.
"These vaccines have undergone the strictest safety and quality control trials and have reached the exacting standards of safety, purity and effectiveness. Nothing is left to chance."
Fiji now has 1477 Covid-positive people in isolation. There have been 1894 cases since April, with 1964 infections since March 2020.