Outbreak of virus in Fiji likely to cause cancellation of Irish tour

Six new cases have emerged in quarantine facilities, identified as an ‘Indian variant’

An outbreak of Covid-19 in Fiji, which has been identified as an 'Indian variant', has led to ban on all international and inter-island travel on the Pacific Island. One of the consequences will most likely lead to the cancellation of Ireland's proposed three-test tour this summer.

The island nation in the South Pacific had largely avoided community transmission before a cluster emerged this month which was centred on a quarantine facility in Nadi, the city that is home to Fiji’s international airport. Fiji’s capital Suva has been forced into lockdown as health officials warned of the potential for a ‘tsunami’ of cases.

The permanent secretary for health and medical services, Dr James Fong, confirmed today (Tuesday) that six new cases had emerged in quarantine facilities and events in India showed the threat posed by the strain could not be underestimated.

“We cannot let that nightmare happen in Fiji,” he said in a televised media conference, according to AFP.

“We still have time to stop it happening but a single misstep will bring about the same Covid tsunami that our friends in India, Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States are enduring.

“All six cases were detected among Fijians who are currently in quarantine,” Dr Fong said.

“Four of the six new cases came from soldiers recently returning from overseas duties, some of who had been fraternising amongst each other during their 14-day quarantine in the border quarantine facility, against the rules we’ve set in place,” he said.

There have also been reports of a wedding or funeral acting as a ‘super spreader’.

Fiji has largely contained the virus through strict isolation measures and border controls, recording 109 cases and just two deaths in a population of 930,000.

Authorities today banned inter-island travel, while national carrier Fiji Airways has suspended all international and domestic passenger flights.

The emergence of community transmission is a blow for Fiji’s hopes of opening quarantine-free travel bubbles with Australia and New Zealand, both major sources of international tourists before the pandemic, as well as Ireland’s rugby tour.

Plans for the three-test tour to Fiji, with games penciled in for July 3rd, 10th and 17th, had been at an advanced stage with the respective unions and had been supported by World Rugby, with an update expected from the IRFU later this week.

However this alarming development in Fiji has suspended those plans and will probably lead to the tour being called off. An IRFU spokesperson said they will have to wait and see how this will affect their plans before making any decisions or statements.

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