Yesterday, the Christian calendar marked Palm Sunday – an occasion that many Fijians spent together with loved ones, surrounded by family in the quiet comfort of their homes.
But this Sunday, in the lockdown areas of Lautoka, Suva and Soasoa, hundreds of our Fiji Police officers and RFMF personnel spent the rainy weekend conducting COVID-19 protection operations – ensuring that the Fijian people kept to our health protection directives. Their sense of patriotic duty, once again, showed us the power of the spirit of “vei lomani” – that profound sense of love and devotion to the protection of our people.
Our police officers had to make more than a few arrests over the weekend, but the number of arrests for curfew breaches on Sunday night fell to 21 from 110 the night prior. So, I want to give credit to the vast majority of Fijians who respected our rules and kept themselves and their loved ones at home. Let’s get that number down to zero.
You’ve heard me say this time and again: Stay at Home. Save Lives. I know it’s not always easy, but staying at home is the best way we beat this virus. It is also the best way all of us can honour the sacrifices of our officers and our healthcare heroes serving in on the frontlines of the war against coronavirus in our hospitals, fever clinics, contact tracing teams and isolation wards. Trust me, these Fijians wish they could be at home. Instead, they are putting their lives and wellbeing on the line to lock down this virus for good.
Around the world, the virus shows few signs of abating. Confirmed cases have surged past 1.2 million. More families are being robbed of loved ones every day as the global death count approaches 70,000. And hard-working people are watching their jobs and businesses disappear as the world economy suffers the most severe recession of our lifetimes.
Yesterday, after a second round of confirmation testing, Fiji confirmed that our 12th case of COVID-19 was, in fact, the daughter-in-law of case number nine – the gentleman in Labasa who returned from India on the 22nd of March. And, this morning, we have confirmed an additional two cases of the virus in Fiji.
The first new case is the wife of the gentleman from Labasa. She was taken into isolation two days before being diagnosed positive this morning.
The second new case is the sister of Fiji’s very first case, the flight attendant from Lautoka. This was a case we have long been expecting. She is the young mother of an existing case – the COVID-positive one-year old baby boy – and she chose to stay in isolation with her child to continue to breastfeed and care for him. She has been in isolation since the 19th of March, when our first case tested positive.
Both cases are close contacts of previous patients, and both were already in isolation when their symptoms developed and they tested positive. So, luckily, the risk of further transmission is very low.
Yesterday, our fever testing team screened the temperatures of nearly 10,000 Fijians in the Lautoka confined area – several of whom were running a fever, which in itself isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm. But upon further investigation, we discovered that one of these fevers belonged to a man who was not only displaying other symptoms, but also had a recent travel history – a history he was hiding from officials.
He arrived in Fiji on the 24th of March from Uruguay, transiting through Singapore. Now, you might be wondering how this gentleman arrived in Lautoka when the lockdown came into effect on the 19th of March. After further questioning, we discovered that he had in fact smuggled his way into the confined area. Once inside, it appears he remained within a set area in Lautoka. Now that he’s showing symptoms, our contact tracing teams are determining how many Fijians he may have put at-risk.
We’ll learn the results of his COVID-19 test tomorrow morning. In the meantime, our contact tracing team has determined the area in which this gentleman stayed. So, we plan to lift the lockdown of the broader Lautoka confined area tomorrow at 0500 hours. But, we will also be announcing a new confined area within Lautoka based on this gentleman’s movements. These details will be announced tomorrow.
It’s the bad news that usually makes headlines – but let’s not forget: Most people in the Lautoka confined area actually have been doing the right thing. We’re grateful to these Fijians inside and outside the checkpoints who have been riding out – what I know – has been a difficult 18 days. Your patience and your diligence has helped us effectively trace and isolate cases – so by staying inside and playing by the rules, you have saved lives.
This morning, Tropical Cyclone Harold intensified into a category five cyclone, with Vanuatu in its immediate path, with parts of Fiji also at risk.
Fiji can expect heavy rains and flooding from Cyclone Harold from tomorrow – meaning floodwaters and road closures will likely add a new layer of complexity to our containment efforts.
Meanwhile, we cannot allow severe weather to jeopardise our life-saving game plan to lock this virus down. We are preparing to face two crises at once – the only way we beat both is if every Fijian adheres closely to the directives from authorities. Our disciplined forces will be giving orders, not advice – and they won’t tolerate disobedience. So, do what you’re told to do. Your life and the lives of those you love depend on it.
I’ve said that our essential healthcare workers are heroes for their role in dealing with COVID-19. When I tell you to follow every directive we give, I’m saying it for them. They have enough to worry about already, without those who are breaking quarantine, violating curfew or otherwise acting recklessly. Stop making their lives difficult, when they’re working so hard to save yours. Listen to what we are telling you, and do the right thing. Do it for the doctors, do it for the nurses, do it for the police officers and disciplined forces. Do it for your livelihoods, do it for your businesses, and do it for your freedom of movement.
Do it for Fiji.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you. God Bless Fiji.