Bula Vinaka and a very good evening to everyone at home.
As of today, 92.6 percent of eligible adults in Fiji –– 543,318 individuals in total –– have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 40 percent of that target population is fully vaccinated. That puts us on track to smash our goal of fully vaccinating 80 percent of adults in Fiji by the end of October, and I could not be prouder of everyone who has come forward to receive both doses.
As more of Fiji becomes fully vaccinated, we will forge a powerful shield of protection against severe disease and death from COVID-19, and much of what we miss most about our lives can be restored. Tonight, I want to talk through our plan to responsibly ease some of our health protection measures.
As we all know, there is a daily 6 pm until 4 am curfew in effect for all of Viti Levu. I’m grateful to the vast majority of Fijians for their widespread adherence to the curfew. This measure has provided necessary protection against non-essential nightly gatherings and assisted enormously with the movement of essential personnel during emergencies.
Now that we have fully vaccinated 40 percent of our target population, we can move the start time of the curfew from 6 pm to 7 pm. From tomorrow, Monday, the 23rd of August, the curfew hours will be from 7pm until 4am.
Once we fully vaccinate 50 percent of our target population, the curfew start time will be 8 pm;
Fully vaccinating 60 percent of our target population will allow us to start the curfew at 9 pm and lift the containment area borders in Viti Levu;
At the 70 percent threshold, the curfew will start at 10 pm, and once we fully vaccinate 80 percent of our target population, the curfew will start at 11 pm. Throughout this gradual rollback, the end time of the curfew will remain 4 am.
Just because we plan to shorten the curfew hours does not give anyone a free pass to disregard any of our other health protection measures. Unless announced otherwise, they will all remain in place. Do not start party planning. Do not arrange for grog sessions after work or carelessly share cigarettes, or forget to wear your mask, or violate physical distancing. Do not let these extra hours cost us our vigilance –– they should only be used for essential travel. If we see widespread violations of COVID-safe practices, we will have to review, or even reset, this rollback.
I say that knowing that a curfew –– no matter what time it begins –– is not normal. There are not normal times. I assure you, our goal is to fully restore our freedom of movement and association. But the decision to lift the curfew altogether can only be taken when we have sustained time periods with very few deaths due to the virus. Just the same, other relaxations, including the re-opening of certain businesses and allowances for social gatherings, will be announced in step with the best available science.
I cannot emphasise enough: all of this depends on more Fijians getting both jabs of the vaccine. We are doing well. Very few countries have matched the pace of our vaccine administration. That is reason to be proud, but not reason to be satisfied. We are not in competition with other countries –– we are in competition against COVID-19, and our victory must be decisive.
You may know someone who has not been vaccinated –– I urge you to reach out to them personally and encourage them to come forward. Be the voice of reason and compassion that compels them to protect themselves and others. You could save their life or the life of another, because the more of us are vaccinated the more all of us are protected. To reward people who have been vaccinated and encourage those who have not yet been vaccinated, we are organizing a national vaccine lottery, with some great prizes we’ll announce soon. But remember, this is all about winning together, and the ultimate prize is the lives we’ll save. We can do this, Fiji. I know that we can. We can save lives. We can re-open all of our businesses, micro, small, medium, and larger, and return more people to their jobs. We can open up our tourism sector. We can reopen to the world. And we can reclaim the strong Fijian economy that we built together over many years.
As always, we will keep you closely updated as we take these steps towards normalcy together. Keep the faith, Fiji. Better days are coming. And they are coming because we have committed to meeting them together.
Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you. And God Bless you all.