SYDNEY, July 16 (Reuters) - The Pacific island nation of Fiji has recorded a sharp increase in new COVID-19 infections and deaths as the country's health services are stretched by the highly contagious Delta variant.
After keeping the coronavirus largely at bay last year, Fiji registered a record 1,220 new cases in one day and an additional five deaths, health authorities said in a statement released late on Thursday.
Like most Pacific island nations, Fiji closed its borders to protect its population of about 900,000 people in the early stages of the pandemic. Now it is one of a small but growing number of countries in the region battling increased infections, including with Papua New Guinea.
The morgue at Fiji's largest hospital is already full and authorities have established field hospitals in sports stadiums and other venues as the health situation deteriorates.
Fiji's Ministry of Health and Medical Services said many people were waiting too long before seeking medical assistance.
"Sadly, people with severe COVID-19 are still dying at home or they are coming to a medical facility in the late stages of severe illness," the ministry said in a statement.
Fiji has recorded 13,800 infections, and 72 deaths, since April after a breach in a quarantine facility. The country last year logged fewer than 100 infections and just two deaths.
About 64% of the adult population in Fiji have received at least one dose of AstraZeneca or Sinopharm vaccines, according to official data, while just over 12% have received a second. (Reporting by Jonathan Barrett; editing by Jane Wardell)