Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has ruled out a complete shutdown whether on Viti Levu or across the country despite increasing cases, and new clusters emerging.
In a televised announcement tonight, Bainimarama said whilst the virus is deadly, it is not invincible, and can be dealt with without ransoming Fiji’s “economy, livelihoods and our future”, all of which may be permanently lost if a full shutdown was instituted.
“At this stage, it should be clear that we are not going to get through this pandemic by shutting every Fijian in their homes and shuttering the windows of every business in the country,” he said.
“Shutting down completely is a drastic measure; one that we cannot completely guarantee would even work. After 28 days of total lockdown, we could still see the virus re-emerge on day 30 or day 35 because of a single, undetected lapse by anyone, anywhere on Viti Levu. 28 days of a 24-hour curfew for all of Viti Levu would put all of us face to face with economic disaster and miserable isolation. If we took that route…people’s jobs may never return. We’d suffer structural unemployment through the permanent loss of industries. And I cannot allow that to happen. I will not.”
Bainimarama said cases are only appearing on Viti Levu and even then, there has not been a rampant spread of cases in Fiji, an outcome that is achievable if more people get vaccinated, positive individuals are isolated and people adhere to health protection measures.
“You have every right to be worried –– but your concern must translate into strict adherence to our health protection measures. We will have to make adjustments, but we can do so knowing that this crisis will end. And how soon we get to the end will depend on how well all of us adjust our behavior and do our part.”
This week, the Fijian Government has been able to reserve enough vaccines for every eligible Fijian, which will arrive into Fiji “over the coming months.”
“From early last year, we have pressed our case to access these valuable vaccines. We had the money to pay for them, but quick access was only reserved for the wealthier nations. Thanks to the support of the Australian and New Zealand governments, Fijians now have expeditious access as well. And we must seize this chance to protect ourselves.”
To date, more than 220,000 individuals have received their first dose of the vaccine, with almost 4,800 people having received both doses. Until everyone is jabbed “we will have to continue doing the things that we know protect us: wear masks, maintain proper social distance of two metres and avoid any social gatherings, wash your hands often. make sure you have careFIJI installed with Bluetooth turned on.”
Lockdowns will occur, but it will be targeted, Bainimarama said.