Fijian capital of Suva under siege with record COVID-19 cases

A Kiwi doctor fears for Fiji as it struggles with a COVID-19 outbreak, reporting a record 522 new cases and three more deaths in the 24 hours to 8am Sunday.

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

He says the surge in cases has left Suva "under siege" and is concerned it's going to get worse.

"I'm worried for Fiji, I think the health authorities here are worried," says Dr Morriss from the Australian New Zealand Medical Assistance Team (ANZMAT).

"Suva certainly feels like a community under siege, I think people are very worried about the virus and they're worried about getting sick."

Dr Morriss went to Fiji in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016. Suva dodged a bullet then, but with COVID it's a direct hit.

There have been 17 deaths and 2570 new cases recorded this week, but the actual number of cases is likely to be even higher.

"My public health colleagues tell me that the number of positive cases being announced each day underestimates the number of cases in the community," says Dr Morriss.

"We're expecting the number of cases to increase during the next few weeks and inevitably there'll be an increase in the number of very sick patients being admitted to hospital and also the number of deaths."

He says it's already overwhelmed the hospital.

"The hospital had an outbreak of COVID-19 at the beginning of June and since then it's effectively closed for non-COVID with serious medical and surgical problems."

Fijian health authorities have had to set up a field hospital and the ANZMAT team is there to offer support and get the public health message out, to help bring the outbreak under control.