Nine cases of COVID-19 have been detected among travellers from Fiji to New Zealand in the past week, a senior health official said.
Fiji is grappling with a worsening Covid crisis, with over 15,686 people reported to be positive last night. There have been 146 COVID-related deaths according to health authorities, including two pregnant women. The vast majority of deaths have been amongst unvaccinated Fijians.
New Zealand official Harriette Carr said near the beginning of the current outbreak in Fiji – which started in April – the requirement for a Day Zero test was added for arrivals to Auckland Airport from Nadi.
There have been 894 arrivals from Fiji so far and, based on the latest information, the nine cases were detected at New Zealand’s border, Carr said.
As of 20 July, anyone arriving in New Zealand from Fiji must enter a Managed Isolation and Quarantine facility, she said.
Carr said the Government had created a “very high-risk country” category on April 28 this year to reduce the risk of high numbers of people infected with the coronavirus from entering the country.
Countries in the “very high-risk” category include Papua New Guinea, Brazil, India and Pakistan.
Carr said officials continue to monitor the situation in other countries in response to rapidly increasing rates of infection in some parts of the globe.
Based on what is happening in some countries and the prevalence of COVID-19 variants of concern, New Zealand health authorities monitor the measures each country has in place and the risk to New Zealand’s border, she said.
Meanwhile, an international health rights advocate said multiple factors, including being pregnant, could affect the seriousness of Covid-19 infections in women.
Addressing a virtual discussion on Fiji, Australian midwifery expert Professor Caroline Homer said the risk of severe infection could hamper the ability of expectant mothers to fight against the deadly virus.
Women aged over 35 are more vulnerable to infection or disease, including those who are diabetic, obese or overweight with a body mass index of over 30, she said.
Homer warned that high blood pressure during pregnancy could put women at risk of getting severe COVID-19.
She said pre-term birth rates could double for COVID-positive pregnant women.
“That means it is more likely your baby is going to have to have care in a nursery or in some sort of facility, sometimes being separated from you and your family.”
Homer is a co-programme director for Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne and Honorary Emeritus Professor of Midwifery in the Faculty of Health at the University of Technology Sydney.
Epidemiologist Professor Michelle Giles said there was no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines were harmful to unborn babies.
She told the panel that pregnant women, who had not made up their minds about getting vaccinated, should consider factors such as “that a severe infection of Covid-19 would have a worse effect on the unborn child”.
“We have no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines affect negatively or have any harmful effects on an unborn child,” Giles said.
“We actually have a lot of evidence that if you get COVID-19, that can be quite harmful to you as a mum and your baby.”
Giles said the risks to the mother of contracting the virus included severe disease and hospitalisation and could affect the pregnancy.
“We also have evidence that if you get Covid-19, there’s an increased chance maybe of having an early or pre-term birth which can have a significant impact on the baby.”
Giles is an infectious diseases physician and professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Monash University in Melbourne.
Pregnant women are now able to get the Moderna vaccine in Fiji after the United States made supplies available.