Sunday 30th May 2020
We're putting frontliners’ lives at risk
The Covid response strategy announced by the Prime Minister at midnight last night is taking us towards disaster. The people must speak up because their pain and suffering is a sad indictment of the failed policies of this government.
We are now looking at many more lives lost and serious effects on hundreds of people’s long-term health. This government has failed miserably to have a comprehensive health and economic plan.
But we are not just putting vulnerable people at risk of death or serious illness. We are also creating a wave of disease against our front line workers – our doctors, nurses and other essential workers.
The rest of us, if we are sensible and prudent, can still avoid these risks. But we depend on our front line workers. Why are we putting them at risk?
It is clear that our leaders are no longer listening to the Ministry of Health.
Instead they are following a ridiculous theory, publicly stated by the Attorney-General, that Fiji cannot afford a lockdown.
Have they learned no lessons from around the world? Have they not watched the catastrophic scenes in India, Brazil and elsewhere?
If we do not control this disease now, health, social and economic disaster will follow. The economic costs to fix it will be 10 times greater than the economic impact of a short lockdown.
The Government has now lifted the Suva-Nausori and Nadi-Lautoka containment borders. This is an economic measure, so people can go to shops and workplaces.
Has the Government not heard Dr Fong say “when people move, the virus moves”? Why is the Government acting contrary to common sense?
We have more than 200 active cases now. This number can quickly cross the 1,000 mark if we do not listen to the experts and do as they ask.
The only substantial economic measures offered to protect affected people is more “take out your FNPF for another month”. This failed strategy ignores the tens of thousands of poor people outside that system.
It is obvious from the long delays in Government announcements that the Government is severely internally divided. There is no unified strategy and no long-term plan. The Government is making it up as it goes along.
We need a four-week lockdown limiting movement to people, one at a time, for shopping or exercise only. During the lockdown period we must get at least $20 million in cash and food support to the poorest people using the networks of the charity, NGO and faith-based organisations.
Then the Government must plan ahead for more payments. Fiji’s 50,000 poorest families will need at least $500 each in food and cash support over the three-month period after that. The economy will take many months to bounce back so it will then have to find more money. We must plan ahead now and share our plans with the people and our donor countries, so everyone can plan with certainty and confidence. The Government cannot lead and communicate with our people through last-minute reactions and midnight speeches.
We have tried to work with the Government and offer support. But the Government has now become completely irrational.
We say again, the people must speak up. If the Government will not work to save lives, the people must tell them to.
Professor Biman Prasad