December 20, 2021
Fiji has been warned about the omicron variant of the coronavirus since the beginning of December.
Fiji went ahead and opened our borders wide to tourism. That was a difficult decision to make with jobs and the economy at stake and we understand that.
But the evidence is now coming in from around the world that omicron is five times more infectious than the delta variant and that two injections are not enough to respond to it.
The distribution of booster vaccines is only just starting. Tourists from Australia and Europe are now coming into Fiji even while their infection rates are climbing.
Permanent Secretary for Health Dr James Fong has warned us not to let our guards slip. He wants us to keep up our masking, social distancing and other preventive measures. We support this and urge everyone to listen to his guidance.
But we must learn from the mistakes of this year and the disastrous strategies of the Fiji First government that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Fiji citizens.
The first lesson is that while the economy is important, human life is more important. And another severe outbreak will ruin the economy anyway.
So we ask the Government – formulate a plan and tell the people the plan so they can prepare. If we get another uncontrollable outbreak, how will we manage it?
Will we restrict movement by creating borders again?
What will we do to ensure people have food and cash to ensure their daily survival?
NGOs such as FRIEND are already responding to families’ desperate humanitarian needs. This time, will the Government work with them?
What is the plan for the booster rollout? How many vaccines do we have? How will we deliver them?
Last time, as the health crisis blew out, Dr Fong was put in the front line of communications while Government ministers hid from sight. So, to our leaders, how will you communicate with the people? Will you try to bring everyone into the plan? Or will you just try to boss us around as usual?
So we say to the Government – don’t leave it to Dr Fong alone. Communicate your plan clearly. Ensure that all of Fiji’s leaders – in politics, in the community – are involved and working together.
If you have a good plan and communicate it well, we will support you. Government must accept the reality that working together in the national interest is the only way to overcome challenges facing our nation.