Fiji announced its first coronavirus death on Friday, according to reports.
However, Health Minister Ifereimi Waqainabete said the death was not a sign that the Pacific island was on its way to a major outbreak, AFP reported.
“In many other countries, news of the first death due to the virus has signaled an intensifying of the outbreak,” he said, according to AFP. “This is not the case for Fiji. The virus is not present in Fijian communities, nor is there any risk of infection among the Fijian public.”
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The victim, a 66-year-old man, tested positive for the virus after he returned to Fiji from India, according to AFP.
Waqainabete offered condolences to the man’s family, AFP reported.
“This is an enormous tragedy for them, and I can tell you that our staff at the ministry of health and medical services are devastated by this loss as well,” Waqainabete said.
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The man was one of nine others who had arrived at the island nation from India and tested positive for the virus. All nine cases have been under quarantine since July 1, AFP reported.
Waqainabete reportedly said that they have had “zero interaction” with the rest of Fiji’s population, according to AFP.
According to the outlet, Fiji had been free of the coronavirus for four weeks. The country’s previous 18 cases had all recovered.
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Waqainabete said Fiji still intends to repatriate its citizens and isolate cases of the coronavirus upon returning to Fiji in order to avoid spreading the virus among the general population, AFP reported.
In order to protect themselves from the coronavirus, Fiji and other island nations in the Pacific Ocean closed their borders and shut down tourism trade, despite the economic loss, according to AFP.