Opinion

Deadly Virus Discussion Is A Matter Of National Interest

Conspiracy theorists are also coming up with their own takes, from a biological terror weapon development gone wrong to a natural phenomenon that’s part of prediction of an event of apocalyptic proportions like Black Death, to a global economic shutdown caused by deserted streets.
28 Jan 2020 12:46
Deadly Virus Discussion Is A Matter Of National Interest
From left; Fiji’s Chief Medical Adviser, Dr Jemesa Tudravu, Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete and Head of Health Protection, Dr Aalisha Sahu Khan during a press conference on January 27, 2020. Photo: DEPTFO News

We know the damage that speculation and fear-mongering can cause.

That’s the concern of officials as they introduce a measured response to the spread of the dreaded deadly novel coronavirus from China to other countries.

It has now reached our region. Not long ago I wrote an editorial saying that we cannot rule out the possibility of it reaching the region because modern air travel allowed people to travel with ease and speed to many countries.

The virus no doubt had created a lot of public interest worldwide. The media has also got in on the act keeping the world informed of the latest developments.

At the same time some sections of the overseas media have been tempted to engage in speculations about the spread of the disease.

They are claiming that people are collapsing and dying on the streets of some Chinese cities and we are not being told the full story.

Conspiracy theorists are also coming up with their own takes, from a biological terror weapon development gone wrong to a natural phenomenon that’s part of prediction of an event of apocalyptic proportions like Black Death, to a global economic shutdown caused by deserted streets.

The Black Death, also known as the Pestilence, the Great Plague or Black Plague killed millions of people in Europe in the 1300s.

The killer fever was caused by a bacterium that was transmitted from rats to fleas.

It is important to stick to the facts, put out by the Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation (WHO) and not to engage in speculation.

Officials believe it is absolutely critical that we strictly adhere to instructions and information provided by the WHO and the ministry.

They will only release information once it has been confirmed by the relevant experts and authorities.

Given this is a matter of national security, they cannot tolerate unfounded fear-mongering.

Any manner of speculation is dangerous and counter-productive and should be condemned in the harshest terms, they say.

Fear-mongering could keep people away from going out, to school, to shops, to work and other activities.

It could also discourage foreigners from visiting Fiji.

The implications could be serious for business and the economy as a whole.

In the region, Samoa and other Pacific island nations have taken a hardline approach to prevent the disease coming to their shores.

Our Ministry of Health has assured us that things are under control and it is closely monitoring the situation.

On Sunday, six reportedly ill Chinese national passengers were refused entry in Apia, Samoa after arriving on board a Fiji Airways flight from Nadi. They had transited through Nadi on their way to Apia from a flight that originated in Hong Kong. They are now quarantined in Nadi until they are cleared to fly.

It is not clear whether they were medically checked in Samoa.

But one thing is clear for Fiji and the rest of the Pacific. This deadly virus is staring at us in the face.

We need to take the necessary precautions spelt out by the Ministry of Health and even more measures if need be to shut out this disease.

Depending on which media you are reading, watching or listening to, it is safe to take the position that we cannot afford to take any chances.

It is important to stick to the facts, put out by the Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation (WHO) and not to engage in speculation. It is understandable why Samoa took the drastic action of banning the six Chinese.

The Samoans have just come out of that horrible measles outbreak where their health system was found wanting. They did not want a repeat of that debacle.

Our Ministry of Health was well prepared for the measles outbreak which resulted in no deaths.

It has done exactly the same thing with the coronavirus.

Minister for Health Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete, country director of the World Health Organisation Dr Corinne Capuano and Fiji’s Medical Adviser, Dr Jemesa Tudravu have been at the forefront of assessing the situation and coming up with a strategy to deal with the threat.

They realise that Fiji is not immune to this risk. While there are no direct flights from Wuhan, China where Fijian students are caught in the lockdown, appropriate, precautionary measures have been announced to protect Fijians as announced by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama last night.

The high level of alert and enhanced monitoring at Nadi International Airport should give Fijians confidence they are being protected well.

Health officials are working closely with our national carrier, Fiji Airways, to identify all at-risk travellers checking in at overseas ports.

These travellers will be required to undergo thermal screening prior to boarding.

Out of an abundance of caution, all cabin crew on flights to and from Hong Kong, Singapore and Narita will be taking extra precautions to ensure a hygienic environment.

In emergency cases, on-board isolation measures can be undertaken by the flight crew.

Working with the Ministry of Health, Fiji Airways will also introduce Special Health Declaration Ports at all Asian ports that will require guests to report if they travelled through mainland China in the past 14 days. If appropriate, individuals will be quarantined.

As the coronavirus situation unfolds overseas, further measures will be taken if deemed necessary.

As of yesterday, there are no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus pneumonia in Fiji.

However, medical experts have revealed the disease can go undetected until symptoms appear, and as we have seen in the United States and elsewhere, it is virtually impossible to stop a virus from crossing national borders.

Therefore, officials are anticipating and actively preparing for a case of the new coronavirus pneumonia being found in the country.

They are undertaking all necessary preparations to ensure we’re ready to aggressively investigate, identify, treat and contain the virus.

Contingency plans are in place at our major health facilities and hospitals are stocking up on supplies to be able to respond effectively.

All Fijians must do their part as well by practising good hygiene to limit the likelihood of infection. Wash your hands with soap and running water.

If you are ill, cover your nose and mouth with tissue when coughing or sneezing.

Fijians should also not travel to the Hubei Province in China.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

Fijisun E-edition
Total Excellium
Subscribe-to-Newspaper
Fiji Sun Instagram
Subscribe-to-Newspaper