Fiji has reported a record number of Covid deaths over the past week, including two pregnant women, as the country struggles to contain a severe outbreak of the virus.
A total of 21 people died between 14 and 20 July, the country’s health minister, James Fong, said. Another 1,091 new Covid cases were also confirmed in the 24 hours to 8am on Wednesday.
Both pregnant women arrived at hospital suffering from severe respiratory distress last week and were assessed by specialists who decided to perform emergency caesarean sections, Fong said.
The babies survived but “sadly, despite the best efforts of their attending physicians, both mothers passed away”, he said.
“Maternal deaths at any time are a tragedy, and maternal deaths due to Covid-19 are a clear indication of the severity of this outbreak,” he continued.
Fiji had largely escaped the pandemic until April this year, when a cluster linked to a quarantine facility emerged. Since then, the country has recorded more than 20,000 cases and 144 deaths. Over the past week, the seven-day average daily test positivity rate was 27.5%.
“Given the rapidly evolving situation, our teams have been working around the clock to reprioritise and focus our efforts to ensure we are protecting those most at risk of severe Covid-19 and dying – our elderly, people with existing medical conditions and pregnant women,” Fong said.
“These shifts include changes to our testing services, home quarantine guidance, ensuring we are providing life-saving medical care to those people who are most at risk, and establishing vaccination for pregnant women.”
Only 14% of Fijians are fully vaccinated, though more than 400,000 of the almost 900,000-strong population have received a first vaccine dose.