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Travel restricted from Fiji to NZ

Saturday 14 August 2021 | Written by RNZ | Published in Fiji, Regional


Travel restricted from Fiji to NZ
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Travel is restricted to New Zealand from Fiji this weekend as officials report more than 24,000 active cases of Covid-19 and at least 330 deaths since the outbreak began in April.

Fiji is now considered "very high risk," to New Zealand and from midnight Sunday, only New Zealand citizens, their partners and children, will be able to travel there from Fiji under certain conditions.

Travellers from Fiji who meet these restrictions will be required to spend 14 days in MIQ when they arrive.

New Zealand's Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins made the announcement on Wednesday, to "protect the health of New Zealanders."

"We put these stronger measures in place for specific countries as outbreaks there are out of control and we want to reduce the risks to New Zealanders to people bringing Covid-19 here from those places."

"Public health advice suggests steps must be taken now to minimise the risk of Covid-19 entering unimpeded through our border," Hipkins said.

Fiji has gone from the containment to mitigation phase in the hope of slowing the spread of the virus.

Fiji's Health Secretary Dr James Fong says he understands New Zealand's decision to protect itself from the virus and agrees the situation is dire.

"I accept that that's their perspective. It's obvious to the world that we are in a bad state. we have the highest number of cases per million. The number of deaths we have had is also high when you compare it globally."

He continues to stand by his stance on a lockdown, saying it won't work.

"At the moment no, I can't see how we will form the elimination over lockdown. I can only ensure the disease does not get out of Viti Levu."

He said it would be too hard to force people to stay home and not engage with each other in areas that are difficult to police.

"If we do another lockdown, we will not be able to restrict movement in residential lots. There are huge amounts of communal living."

Despite refusal to go into lockdown, he said vaccinations were not the only solution.

"There is always the misconception that we promoted the vaccination as the silver bullet. We still need to have a lot of Covid safe measures that will help us to impede the movement and effects of the virus."

Among the over 300 people who have died, three were fully vaccinated.

But, Dr Fong said it was important people remember it takes at least 14 days for the vaccine to kick in.

Fiji Girmit Foundation President Krish Naidu said it was a difficult blow to Fijians.

"This is just a double whammy. People are always looking for positive stories to come out from this crisis but it is getting worse everyday. It's a signal and a shift of more stress and uncertainty for the community."

Although he said most people would "respect" and understand the decision, it would certainly add many challenges if people need to get back to New Zealand in time.

"I know some of the people are already in Fiji to visit family and will all of a sudden find themselves caught in between trying to come home as quickly as possible but facing MIQ challenges that every traveller has to go through."

Meanwhile, Fiji's Former Health Minister Dr Neil Sharma said, it was unlikely the move would influence Fiji to go into lockdown.

"In a high risk situation like this I think they're doing the right thing.... But we have got to get out act together. We are facing such a pantomime out here."

Public opinion in Fiji "was very negative because the information is not reaching the general public from whatever the Ministry of Health is trying to do. It's a complete state of mess and nobody seems to know what is happening."

Last week four of his senior patients died of Covid-19.

"I'm thinking what's going to happen? Is this going to wipe out all our over 60's? But it's not only the seniors, it's younger people going as well and even people who are fully vaccinated.... but people should still be vaccinated, you have a civic responsibility," he said.

More than 20 percent of the Fijian population is fully vaccinated.

Other countries considered very high risk by the New Zealand government include India, Brazil, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea.