Fiji's record-breaking COVID-19 outbreak only in 'early stages', cases expected to rise - local doctor

A New Zealand doctor working in Fiji says public health workers believe they are only in the early stages of the country's latest COVID-19 outbreak and the number of cases will continue to rise.

Fiji recorded 791 positive cases of coronavirus on Wednesday - the highest daily number reported so far. The Health Ministry also announced three new deaths from the virus.

"There have been 37 new recoveries reported since the last update, which means that there are now 6524 active cases," health secretary Dr James Fong said on Wednesday.

"There have been 7870 cases during the outbreak that started in April 2021. We have recorded a total of 7940 cases in Fiji since the first case was reported in March 2020, with 1355 recoveries."

Christchurch anaesthetist Dr Wayne Morriss is among a team of New Zealand and Australian doctors who've flown there to help.

"This is a very serious outbreak and, unfortunately, we have seen in other parts of the world with the Delta variant it starts spreading and spreading quickly and can be difficult to contain," he told The AM Show on Thursday

"My public health colleagues are telling me we are at the early stages of the outbreak so there are concerns that case numbers will continue to rise for some time over the next few weeks."

He said people are particularly concerned about what this outbreak will mean for the nation.

"People here are worried and Fijian authorities are worried. We know from the natural history of the disease that when there are these numbers of positive cases, there will be increased numbers of people admitted to hospital with serious disease and there, tragically, will be more deaths."

Morriss noted one issue was many people were only seeking medical help when they became gravely ill.

"People have tended to come to hospital late, when they are already very sick. Some people have actually arrived and have been dead on arrival. 

"One of the big health messages at the moment is people should come to health facilities earlier if they are starting to get sick."

However, Morriss said overall the public health response is "very well-coordinated, sophisticated" and the public has largely adhered to the strict measures implemented to stop the virus' spread.

"People by and large are following all of the social distancing guidelines."