Fiji’s virus spike ‘wake-up call’ for Pacific Islands: Red Cross

SUVA, FIJI (AFP) – The Red Cross called for faster vaccine rollouts in vulnerable Pacific island nations yesterday as a record COVID-19 surge threatens to overload Fiji’s health system.

Fiji’s two largest hospitals have been converted into dedicated Covid-19 facilities, with cases doubling every nine days since a second wave began in April.

The situation has been a “serious wake-up call” showing the need for more urgency across the region, Red Cross Pacific Chief Katie Greenwood said. “In the Pacific, it’s a critical time to ramp up vaccinations… we can’t let our guards down,” she said. Only about one per cent of Fiji’s 930,000 population has been fully vaccinated and government health chief James Fong said community unease about inoculations was putting a strain on hospitals.

“If people keep rejecting vaccination and Covid-safe measures, that group will start to take up a lot of our health resources because the sick will come from them,” he said. “That means we have less and less (resources) for non-Covid patients.”

Fiji kept community transmission at bay for more than a year by closing its borders but is currently struggling to contain an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant, first identified in India.