Bula Vinaka and welcome this morning.
Fiji is at a crucial point in our fight against COVID-19, and we are deploying all the resources we have to fight it.
From the very beginning, we used Military terminology to describe our campaign. The use of that language was deliberate, because this has always felt like a war. And like a war, it requires us to be totally committed to victory. We ARE totally committed. It is a war that we intend to win. It is a war we must win.
But in any war, a country needs allies—friendly neighbours who share their resources and their knowledge with us in solidarity so that we can confront a common enemy. And this virus is very much a common enemy.
This morning I’m pleased to join the team from the Australia and New Zealand Medical Assistance Team and the Heads of Missions from Australia and New Zealand. You have been our great friends and allies as we have fought this virus. Frankly, we would be in dire straits without the help that Australia and New Zealand have given us.
And our thoughts are with our friends in Australia who are combatting an outbreak of the virus in New South Wales.
Most people in Fiji couldn’t possibly know everything that has gone on behind the scenes of our response to this pandemic, of course. But the help we have gotten from Australia and New Zealand goes far beyond the life-saving vaccines they have made available to us. It has included equipment, technical advice, testing of thousands of swab samples, and financial support to help us through the economic crisis.
Today I want to acknowledge with great appreciation the specific forms of assistance you have brought today: three fully equipped ambulances; a team of 19 including doctors, nurses and logisticians; 250 stretcher beds; some 20 oxygen concentrators; and associated medical consumables; and additional personal protection equipment and supplies.
I’m particularly keen to thank John and Jonathan for going over and beyond the call of duty to assist my Government and all Fijians throughout this crisis.
You’ve been on the ground beside us and are well aware of the needs of our health infrastructure and communities at large. You’ve been a great advocate for us in your capitals, and the results speak for themselves.
To Brian and Wayne, I wish to welcome you and your wonderful team formally to Fiji.
In fact, the people of Fiji have adjusted to our new reality—from the lines at the drive-through here at Albert Park, to the increasing number of vaccinations by the Ministry of Health, to support from religious, community and political leaders.
It shows that Fijians are wise and know what they must do for themselves and for each other.
I understand the difficulties in adjusting to the new routines for some Fijians. After all, we are social people who enjoy our kava, community gatherings, religious services and sports events.
But our best future cannot be achieved without some sacrifices right now. The formula is quite simple. Vaccinate yourselves and your family. Sanitise, wash your hands frequently. Practise social distancing and wear a mask whenever you leave the home.
I believe strongly that we have the ability, by God’s grace, to navigate ourselves out of these treacherous waters. And I am proud to be here this morning with you all to embark on the next stage of our journey and onwards to the day where the arrival of planes and ships full of Aussies and Kiwis aren’t so out of the ordinary.
Vinaka vakalevu, Australia and New Zealand for your support and kind assistance so far.
To conclude, let me acknowledge and thank our frontline workers who from their very first day in the battle against COVID-19 have sacrificed valuable family time and worked tirelessly days and weeks on-end to do the essential contact tracing and testing that is essential to limit the spread of this virus. You also ensure that Fijians are well looked after at clinics, hospitals and in the community.
Thank God for them.
The medical teams from Australia and New Zealand, Alpha and Bravo Teams are here to make sure that your efforts are fully supported.
They will provide valuable strategic advice and operational support for you and help put in place measures to ensure we offer the best services to all Fijians.
I also thank Fijians and friends of Fiji in Australia and New Zealand for their support in sending support to our affected communities. We Fijians never forget our home or our fellow Fijians, no matter how far away we are.
Like every Fijian, I’m looking forward to getting back to normal. And we will do that if we all get vaccinated.
Let’s defeat this virus. Let’s do it together. Let’s reclaim the lives we knew.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.