COVID-19 deaths concern Fijians

Ten people have died in Fiji after testing positive for COVID-19 but only four had their deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

The Health Ministry said six other patients had died from existing chronic conditions they had while being admitted at the country's main hospital in Suva.

This has raised some concern among Fijians who are calling for an explanation over what constitutes a COVID-19 death.

Health Secretary James Fong said the four patients had since died with illnesses directly related to their COVID-positive status.

Six patients died at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital since an outbreak at the facility was announced on June 1.

Of the 860 covid cases currently in isolation, over 150 have been from the CWMH (Colonial War Memorial Hospital).

Dr Fong said each of the non-COVID deaths were due to other serious medical conditions which the patients had been admitted to hospital for.

The finding of a COVID-19 infection was incidental, he said.

On June 8 however, Fong announced the death of a man who had tested positive for the virus upon his admission at the hospital.

But he said the doctors "determined that he died due to complications of his chronic medical condition."

The inconsistency has led to public confusion and given rise to conspiracy theories as people took to social media to raise their concerns.

Many are calling for an explanation over what constitutes a COVID-19 death.

According to the WHO, a COVID-19 death is when it has caused, or is assumed to have caused, or contributed to a patient's death.

The exception is where there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be related to COVID, such as trauma.

The WHO also says there should be no period of complete recovery from the virus between illness and death.

"A death due to COVID-19 may not be attributed to another disease (e.g. cancer) and should be counted independently of pre-existing conditions that are suspected of triggering a severe course of COVID-19."

By comparison, the Public Health England changed its definition of Covid deaths in August 2020 as being anyone with a "laboratory-confirmed positive COVID-19 test and died within (equal to or less than) 28 days of the first positive specimen date will now be reported."


Photo Fiji Government  Caption: FEMAT field hospital in Suva