31 Jan 2020

Fiji PM warns against 'fear-mongering' over coronavirus

12:47 pm on 31 January 2020

Fijians have been warned against spreading fake news about the deadly coronavirus.

People at Beijing Airport, nurses in Auckland and Christchurch are ready to test any unwell passengers arriving from China.

Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said there was no evidence for disproven claims being pushed by some people on social media, and such claims would cause unnecessary panic among the public.

"Given this is a matter of national security, we cannot tolerate unfounded fear-mongering. Any manner of speculation is dangerous and counter-productive and should be condemned in the harshest terms."

Mr Bainimarama urged Fijians to stick to the facts and adhere to instructions and information provided by the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health.

The prime minister addressed the nation this week and warned Fiji was not immune to any risks.

He said it was impossible to contain a virus across international borders: "Therefore, we are anticipating and actively preparing for a case of the coronavirus in the country."

Fiji has stepped up its preventative measures at its borders.

The national carrier - Fiji Airways - has been directed by the government to identify all at-risk travellers checking in with the airline at overseas ports.

Mr Bainimarama said every precaution was being taken by health officials as medical experts had ruled the disease could go undetected until symptoms appeared.

"Travellers will be required to undergo thermal screening prior to boarding," he said.

"All flights to and from Hong Kong, Singapore and Narita will ensure a hygienic environment.

"Fiji Airways will also introduce special forms at all Asian ports that will require guests to report if they had travelled through mainland China in the past 14 days."

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Health Minister Ifereimi Waqainabete.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Health Minister Ifereimi Waqainabete. Photo: Fiji govt/Facebook

Fiji's Health Ministry said it was working with the World Health Organisation to monitor the virus.

Meanwhile, Fiji's shadow Minister of Health has called on the government to step up its response to coronavirus and not downplay the threat it poses.

Atonio Lalabalavu said the government should urgently evacuate Fiji citizens from the Wuhan area.

Dr Lalabalavu said Fiji must accept New Zealand's offer of extra seats on a chartered Air New Zealand flight from Wuhan to New Zealand.

He also said the government must establish quarantine facilities at all international ports and stricter measures for inbound travellers.

The World Health Organisation has declared the coronavirus outbreak in China a public health emergency of international concern.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs