CANBERRA (Reuters) – Struggling to contain an outbreak of the highly-transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant, Fiji reported a record 636 COVID-19 infections and six deaths on Tuesday, with the mortuary at Pacific island’s main hospital already filled to capacity.
Since the pandemic began, Fiji has reported a total 39 deaths, but most have come since the emergence of the Delta variant in April.
Located some 2,000 km (1,300 miles) north of New Zealand, and with a population of less than a million people, mostly concentrated on two islands in the archipelago, Fiji had initially succeeded in keeping the coronavirus at bay.
The government has resisted calls for a national lockdown.
The infections that erupted in the past few months were suspected to have been caused by someone breaching quarantine.
The Colonial War Memorial Hospital in the capital, Suva, is Fiji’s largest public hospital with 500 beds, and has been assigned the task of treating COVID-19 patients.
On Monday, the government said many patients were seeking treatment too late, and the hospital’s mortuary was full, even though some victims were dying at home.
“Sadly we are seeing people with the severe disease die at home or on the way to the hospital before our medical teams have a chance to administer what could potentially be life-saving treatment,” Fiji’s Ministry for Health said in an emailed statement.
About 54% of Fijians have received at least one dose of the AstraZeneca or Sinopharm vaccines, according to official data, while almost 9% have received a second.
Meanwhile, Australia said on Tuesday it will donate 15 million COVID-19 vaccines to the Pacific island nations and Timor-Leste by mid-2022.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)