Students scare

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USP main campus in Laucala, Fiji.
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BY BEN BILUA
GIZO

SOLOMON Islands student in Fiji have expressed they are afraid of the new covid-19 variant Omicron, which has invaded quarantine and now in community transmission.

Speaking to Island Sun, a final year student who wants his name withheld, said the news of Omicron now transmitting in communities has put fear among students.

The student said situation has got worse and that concentration on preparation for this year’s studies has reached rock bottom.

“Most students are okay at the moment but we don’t know what will happen next. While we are fearing for our lives, some of us think that it is best for our government to suspend any repatriation flights from Fiji to Solomon Islands as measures to stop this virus coming into our country,” the student said.

Students said they are taking extra precaution and instructions given out by the Fiji government.

This paper understand that Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Health Dr James Fong announced yesterday that samples sent to Australia came back positive for both Omicron and Delta variants with confirmation that both viruses are now on what is described as community transmission.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Omicron is labelled as a Variant of Concern and recommended countries to undertake serious mitigation strategies such as enhancing surveillance and sequencing of cases;  sharing genome sequences on publicly available databases, such as GISAID; reporting initial cases or clusters to W.H.O; performing field investigations and laboratory assessments to better understand if Omicron has different transmission or disease characteristics, or impacts effectiveness of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics or public health and social measures.

Countries should continue to implement the effective public health measures to reduce COVID-19 circulation overall, using a risk analysis and science-based approach. They should increase some public health and medical capacities to manage an increase in cases. W.H.O is providing countries with support and guidance for both readiness and response. 

In addition, it is vitally important that inequities in access to COVID-19 vaccines are urgently addressed to ensure that vulnerable groups everywhere, including health workers and older persons, receive their first and second doses, alongside equitable access to treatment and diagnostics. 

The B.1.1.529 variant (Omicron) was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021. The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant. In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021.

The variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa.


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