COVID-19: Fiji police issue stern warning ahead of capital's lockdown

Police have issued a stern warning ahead of a COVID-19 lockdown in Fiji's capital on Friday night - comply or be arrested. 

Masked up and manning checkpoints, police say they won't tolerate lockdown breaches.   

"Talking is over, we are now arresting people," Fiji's Acting Commissioner of Police Rusiate Tudravu says.

"And there will be more arrests to come if we do not behave and follow what is being directed by the Ministry of Health."

The imminent lockdown has prompted a rush on shops in the capital of Suva, as locals queue for supplies. No one can leave their home for any reason apart from an emergency.

But health officials say the virus may still be circulating in Nadi, Lautoka, in Rakiraki and Lami.

A 6pm to 4am curfew for the entire main island Viti Levu starts on Saturday.

"Tonight I offer the nation's Ministry's total commitment to spare as many families as we can, from the tragedy of seeing loved ones lost to a terrible disease," Fiji Health Ministry's Permanent Secretary Dr James Fong says.

The country has recorded four deaths overall and there are currently 52 active cases - most of which are community transmission events. 

Four new cases were reported overnight, including three staff at Fiji's Centre for Disease Control, which is the equivalent of our ESR Lab. 

"Our investigation so far indicates that this cluster originated outside the Fiji CDC and the virus was then brought in," said Dr Fong. 

But Auckland University Pacific Medical & Health Sciences Dean Dr Colin Tukuitonga says it appears a breach of infection control has occurred. 

"Theoretically it should not happen. I expect the workers to have been trained, to follow process and procedure, to be all PPE'd up," he said. 

He says the current situation, where there are positive cases of an unknown origin, is of concern. 

"It could easily get out of hand and one would hope they get on top of it quickly," he tells Newshub.

Contact tracing teams in Fiji are stretched, and Dr Tukuitonga says a team of New Zealand experts should be sent to help. 

"The next 48 hours is going to make a big difference, but I would certainly be looking at it (sending a New Zealand team up) now."

The Foreign Affairs Ministry has told Newshub Fiji will get $40 million to help it deal with COVID-19. 

"New Zealand stands ready to respond to further requests for assistance from Fiji."

The lockdown will lift on Wednesday morning - but any fresh cases will likely see that extended.