Be prepared for a long haul, warns Health Chief as Covid cases rise

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Venkat Raman
Auckland, May 12, 2021

Health and Medical Services Permanent Secretary Dr James Fong

Border closure, restrictions on movement of people, shut down of non-essential businesses and strict vigilance on public places are among the stringent measures that the Fijian government has been obliged to take over the past few weeks as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in this South Pacific Nation.

After one year of community-free transmission, Fiji is experiencing the fear of the Virus again as each day brings with it fresh cases of people testing positive.

The Fijian government has been among a few successful stories of containing Covid-19 but the past fortnight has shown the tricky nature of the virus and vulnerability of people.

Curfews and Lockdown measures

Health and Medical Services Permanent Secretary Dr James Fong has told his fellow Fijians to be ‘prepared for all types of action that the government may be obliged to take to contain the Virus and stop its spread.’

“We should perhaps be prepared for the long haul. Given the ways the cases are rising, I cannot take away the possibility that we may have to continue this operation for a very long time. We may have to enforce another 24-hour curfew type of lockdown,” he said.

Dr Fong appealed to the media not to spread false news and rumours and asked the people to believe only the official information being put out by him and his Ministry.

He also appealed to the people not to resort to panic-buying or hoard non-perishable food items and goods because of possibilities of lockdown.

The Fiji Sun quoted him as saying that Fijians should be prepared for all eventualities.

Strategic Approach

“This is the reason I talk the way I talk. I do not want to be committed to one direction but I want you to be open in your preparation for all types of cause of action,” he said.

According to the publication, Dr Fong said that a more sustained lockdown will require a more strategic approach and after a year’s experience, there is a much greater understanding of the virus and a range of tools available to fight it including stronger testing
capacity and the Care Fiji App.

“Future lockdowns, should they be needed, will be targeted and active. They will be targeted because the lockdown area will be defined as narrowly as possible. And they will be active because we will endeavour to permit the broadest range of movement and economic activity possible, in bubbles that mitigate widespread transmission of the virus,” he said.

Dr Fong said that the government was keen to ensure that essential services continued to operate and as many businesses as possible to remain open.

Police officers at Momi Junction in Nadi (Photo for Fiji Sun by Mereleki Nai)

Stay at home, please

He asked people not to remain in their homes and not visit friends or relatives.

It is now mandatory for people to wear facemasks while moving out of their homes, he said.

“Whatever step the government takes – whether it is to legally mandate mask-wearing or the use of the Care Fiji App, or even re-introducing a 24-hour curfew, Fiji’s success will ultimately come down to the diligence and the vigilance of the public,” Dr Fong said.

The Ministry of Health has advised that due to the steadily rising number of Covid cases across Viti Levu, the borders of all six containment areas; Lautoka, Nadi, Rakiraki, Lami, Suva and Nausori, were being maintained.

Constant review

Fiji Sun further reported Dr Fong having said that confirmation of cases of unknown origin indicated that the virus could still be present in six areas.

“My teams and I sit down every day to go over how we are managing the nation’s Covid-19 containment strategy. I encourage every household and community to spend at least one day per week reviewing how their group or bubble and manage the risks of this outbreak. I call on all Fijians to take some time, talk through the schedules and routines of the people who are within their bubbles’ or share their bubbles,” he said.

“Dr Fong called on parents to talk with their children about how the virus could spread. He said that the government was explaining the steps taken because it wanted Fijians to understand. I request people tuning in for our announcements to help spread the messages faster than the virus spreads itself. You do not need a medical degree to understand why it is important to wear masks or wash your hands. If you can turn your phone on, you can install the Care Fiji App and keep the Bluetooth turned on. It is very simple,” Fiji Sun said.

Economic recovery

Dr Fong said that the difference between a crowded shop and the safety of one’s own home should be obvious to everyone.

“We cannot expect our economy to recover if we shut entire industries for weeks on end. Some of those jobs, particularly in manufacturing, may never come back. Businesses, organisations, communities and individuals are all together in this campaign. All of us are only as strong as our weakest link,” he said.

Dr Fong said that adherence to all -safe measures, everywhere in Fiji at every level of society was the only sustainable way to manage this crisis.

Celebrate Eid at Home

Fiji Muslim League President Hafiz Khan has asked Muslims to celebrate the ensuing Eid Al Fitr at homes with just families.

He said that with the Covid-19 restrictions on social gathering in place, no visitors should be allowed home and no one should visit others in their homes or elsewhere.

“I understand that the restrictions also apply to the Northern Division even though there is no case. It is understandable that some places are in lockdown and all places of worship are closed,” Mr Khan said.

He said that people should pray in their homes.

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