6 Apr 2020

Fiji wrestling with Covid-19 lockdown breaches

1:22 pm on 6 April 2020

Fiji's government has issued a zero-tolerance policy due to increasing Covid-19 violations, following 110 arrests on Sunday and 61 overnight for breaching curfew.

More than 500 people including police officers, church ministers and representative rugby players have been arrested for breaching the quarantine, lockdown and curfew restrictions.

Fiji's PM, Frank Bainmarama gives the a Covid-19 update, with Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho behind him

Fiji's PM, Frank Bainmarama gives the a Covid-19 update, with Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho behind him Photo: Fiji Govt

Twenty-four people were also detained for holding gatherings of more than 20.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama warned anyone caught breaking the law would be dealt with severely.

"This level of lawlessness is irresponsible, un-Fijian and just plain stupid," he said.

"We are at war with the most devastating global pandemic in 100 years and any disobedience in our ranks will cost us lives. We don't care who you are. Rules are rules."

Police commissioner, Sitiveni Qiliho, said extra checkpoints had been erected outside the capital Suva where people were seen moving around during the curfew.

Fiji's Police Commissioner Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho

Fiji's Police Commissioner Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho Photo: Fijian Government

Mr Qiliho said those caught during the lockdown and curfew restrictions were not only breaking the law but risked the lives of others.

Mr Qiliho said police resources had been stretched in dealing with the Covid-19 measures.

Some members of the public seemed to be not isolating themselves after travelling which was also an issue.

Mr Qiliho indicated those who were forced into quarantine because they had ignored self-isolation rules would be arrested once they completed their treatment.

"They haven't been honest with us and that's not going to be let to pass. We will deal with those people when their quarantine is completed."

Mr Qiliho said two rugby players were arrested after they failed to comply with the 14-day self-isolation requirement.

He said the pair were abroad - one of them arrived from Singapore - and they were advised to self-isolate but ignored it.

Meanwhile investigations were continuing into the leaked documents regarding the Suva couple who tested positive last Thursday.

Police were also looking into non-essential businesses flouting the restrictions.

Sitiveni Qiliho said those business owners who were opening their stores were putting the public at risk and would be punished.

24-hour curfew threat issued

Two settlements on Fiji's second largest island, Vanua Levu, have been also been cordoned off by police.

Points in and out of Suva are blocked by police

Points in and out of Suva are blocked by police Photo: Fiji police

The Prime Minister said one of the latest confirmed cases had visited the areas.

Frank Bainimarama said residents had been advised to stay in their homes as the contact tracing teams would be visiting them.

Suva and Lautoka cities were on lockdown with the latter's restrictions scheduled to end tomorrow.

But the prime minister said if people continued to ignore government directives, he would use the military and police to lockdown the entire country.

"Come next week, if we don't see the numbers of our curfew and quarantine violations go dramatically down, we will initiate a nation-wide 24-hour curfew. It's that simple," he said.

"But even if we do that - if we throw every dollar we have into this effort and direct every police officer in the country to force people to stay in their homes, the government cannot win this war alone. We need you to take responsibility for our nation-wide response."

Flights to Australia, US

Meanwhile, a Fiji Airways flight carrying fresh produce and mail arrived in Sydney on Sunday.

The airline said on its return to Nadi, the plane would bring over 11 tonnes of medical equipment donated by UNICEF.

Earlier, Fiji Airways operated a charter flight by the Mormon Church to the United States.

Church missionaries who arrived in Fiji from Tonga, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands were on that flight to Salt Lake City in Utah.

Airline CEO Andre Viljoen said the aircraft would return via Los Angeles with freight only.

Mr Viljoen said Fiji Airways was also working with other countries to allow their citizens to return home.

Thirty New Zealanders have been caught up in the lockdown at Lautoka since 20 March and some of them want to return home.

High Commissioner Jonathan Curr said the group was well and he was working to get them home.

More than 400 foreign nationals from Europe, including the United Kingdom, had been recorded stranded in Fiji.

Foreign Affairs Minister Inia Seruiratu said the government had received a request from the British High Commission in Suva to help get their citizens home.

Fiji closed its border to Europe, China, South Korea and Iran on 8 March due to the Covid-19 threat.

NZ donation

The New Zealand government has provided 40 high-flow oxygen machines worth $US218,000 to assist Fiji fight Covid-19.

The equipment was part of a Hospital Preparedness package and would be used in hospitals, said Jonathan Curr.

He said New Zealand had contributed more than $US1.7 million to Fiji's Stimulus Budget.

Fiji has 12 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Jonathan Curr.

Jonathan Curr. Photo: MFAT