Total Lockdown Of Viti Levu Ruled Out: PM Bainimarama

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.
11 Jun 2021 23:24
Total Lockdown Of Viti Levu Ruled Out: PM Bainimarama
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has ruled out a total lockdown of Viti Levu.

“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.”

In a video released on the Fijian Government Facebook page, Mr Bainimarama said those calling for 28days of lockdown misunderstood the virus and disregarded what that order would mean for Fijians.  

His address also follows an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the past week.  Tuesday recorded the highest number of cases recorded in a day – 94.  Last Sunday 83 new cases were recorded.  In his daily press briefing, Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services  Dr James Fong announced 51 new cases earlier today.

Mr Bainimarama said while the growing number of cases are not good news, new cases once identified can be contained.  To slow the spread, those suspected to be positive are quarantined and those who have tested positive already isolated.

But Mr Bainimarama remains adamant that shutting down completely is a drastic measure; one that is not completely guaranteed to even work.

“Developing countries have never successfully implemented total lockdowns. Even wealthier countries, where average families have deep pockets and savings, have only rarely ever succeeded.”

He said there was possibility that after 28 days of total lockdown  the virus could 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, after we spent nearly 700 hours shut in our homes, Fiji would look vastly and cruelly different when we all re-emerged. 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.”

He said it was easy to call for drastic measures like 28 days of straight lockdown for the whole of Viti Levu if you are still in a high-paying job or have a healthy savings account.

“It is easy to call for a lockdown if you do not depend on day-to-day wages or struggle to pay bills for a business that is closed.  It is easy to call for a lockdown if you don’t work at a factory that might permanently leave Fiji if they must shut down completely for 28 days; the garment factories and call centres, that cannot serve overseas clients will lose those contracts  –– and the jobs they support –– forever.

“And businesses, large and small, that thrive because of this economic activity could shut forever as well. Those are the ordinary Fijians who we are thinking about; the factory employees, the car mechanics and washers, the market vendors, the cash crop farmers, taxi and other public service vehicle drivers, construction workers, wait staff, the micro, small and medium business operators. If they can work safely, if they choose to work safely, they should be able to work safely.”

While explaining about the current outbreak in its context, Mr Bainimarama outlined the following: “First, our current outbreak is localized. It is not all over Fiji. It is on Viti Levu and centered in the Central Division. The cases are also mostly occurring in known clusters, most of which are within lockdown areas.

“So we have managed to keep the cases at much lower levels than they could have been, and we certainly have not had the kind of rampant spread that many countries experienced a year or more ago.”



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