15 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Fiji plans response budget as airline forced to cut more flights

1:31 pm on 15 March 2020
Fiji's attorney general,  Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Fiji's attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Photo: AFP/Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto

Fiji's government is preparing a response budget to address the Covid-19 coronavirus threat.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said a supplementary budget was necessary to reduce the impact of the coronavirus which he added was crippling the world market.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said maintaining global co-operation and goodwill was key to restoring stability to Fiji's economy.

The new budget would be tabled in Parliament on March 26 when the house next sat.

"We are not immune to this pandemic's ramifications. The latest reports estimate the net losses to the world economy will be upwards of $2 trillion this year - with global growth dramatically slowing to half of 1 percent.

"We cannot risk waiting until the close of the financial year to really evaluate our spending priorities and take stock of our revenue streams."

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Fiji had no confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

The government was committed to preventing a large-scale outbreak of Covid-19 in Fiji.

Travel restrictions were imposed on visitors from China, Italy, Iran and South Korea with screening at all ports-of-entry in the country.

"We've already allocated a number of unbudgeted expenditures to support our preparatory efforts, including ordering thermal scanners to install at our ports-of-entry," he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the Ministry of Economy would accept electronic submissions from the public over e-mail.

Meanwhile, the national carrier Fiji Airways had announced further cutbacks to flights and adjusted schedules to some of its popular routes.

In a statement, the airline said due to the lower demand arising from the threat of Covid-19, flights to Hong Kong had been reduced by 60 percent through to May and 40 percent to Samoa.

It said there were also temporary suspension of direct flights to Sydney and Auckland from Suva and a permanent cease to the direct flight between Suva and Port Vila.