Let’s Stay The Course In Our Battle Against COVID-19

Dr Fong may be under a lot of pressure. If that is true, it is no justification to take out his frustration on the media publicly.
27 Aug 2020 10:08
Let’s Stay The Course In Our Battle Against COVID-19
Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health & Medical Services, Dr. James Fong.

The economic forecast in New Zealand predicts that it will take three years before the economy fully recovers. That is taking into consideration all the health and economic indicators. It provides us with a perspective on what we are facing although we hope to recover quicker than that.

While New Zealand continues to grapple with a resurgence in community transmission of COVID-19, we have recorded our second death although we have no new case of community transmission.

Any COVID-19 related events like a death are part of the reality we face. We are fortunate that despite our attempt to keep a clean slate, we have only recorded two deaths. That is because we have maintained the strictest standards at our border and on the frontline and it is something that we need to be proud of.

No one likes the death of a fellow Fijian due to COVID-19. But it has happened and it must be seen in the same context as deaths that have happened in Australia, New Zealand and even the United States of America. By comparison, we have done pretty well.

It came as a surprise then that the Acting Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services, Dr James Fong, has made an unwarranted attack on the Fiji Sun over reporting the second death before other media. The fact is that the newspaper had done its due diligence including contacting the family, but it did not identify the victim to respect the privacy of the family during its period of mourning.

This is a major development and a matter of great public interest. Mr Fong needs to focus on maintaining the good record his ministry has achieved and not get distracted by personal issues that only the family can best handle.

Secondly, as a bureaucrat, he needs to understand that in a democracy like ours, he cannot tell the mainstream media not to publish or broadcast a news item of major public interest.

He can advise the media to be sensitive and respect the victim’s family, but he cannot issue an order to stop publishing or broadcasting news when it is factual and true.

Besides his attack was over the top and ridiculous when the issue was all over social media.

Dr Fong may be under a lot of pressure. If that is true, it is no justification to take out his frustration on the media publicly.

Has he forgotten the countless times that the Fiji Sun has helped in the campaign to create public awareness about COVID-19? The issue he is referring to pales into insignificance to the positive contribution that this newspaper has provided in the war against the killer virus.

To get a proper perspective, Dr Fong should investigate the leakage of sensitive and confidential information from his ministry to the public, especially on social media.

That’s more damaging than his issue against the Fiji Sun.

We must all get back together, harness all our energy and refocus on our collective effort to stamp out COVID-19 and rebuild our economy.

Feedback: nemani.delaibaiki@fijisun.com.fj

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