26 Aug 2020

Fiji loosens gathering restrictions

3:02 pm on 26 August 2020

Fiji's government has loosened restrictions on gatherings in place because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A maximum number of 100 people had been allowed at weddings, funerals and other community functions, however the criteria has changed with venues now able to operate at 50 percent capacity.

Permanent Secretary of Health, James Fong

Permanent Secretary of Health, James Fong Photo: Fiji Govt

The Permanent Secretary for Health, Dr James Fong, said these also included churches, restaurants, cafes, entertainment and meeting venues as well as swimming pools.

"If a venue has a capacity for 500 people, it can now host up to 250 people.

"However, if a venue capacity is less than 200, it can continue to host events with 100 people or less. This applies to both indoor and outdoor facilities," he said.

Up until now, the health ministry had been using the 50-percent capacity thresholds for only sports events.

But Fong said these measures only worked well when all Fijians took the Covid safe precautions seriously.

He urged people to continue to maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres and to avoid shaking hands, kissing and hugging.

"Queue responsibly, wash our hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of our elbows and stay home if you're feeling unwell."

Fong also urged the public to download the careFIJI contact tracing mobile phone application.

"If you are organising an event, make sure everyone attending the event has careFIJI installed with the Bluetooth switched on.

"Seriously, when someone arrives, they should show that they have careFIJI on their phone. If not, they must manually sign in with someone at the front - no exceptions."

Fong also revealed some nightclubs had sought a new business designation as taverns in order to reopen their businesses.

He said while nightclub owners had been severely impacted, the reality was these businesses represented the highest-risk environments for the potential spread of the coronavirus.

"Any requests from nightclubs to seek new business designations will be approved on a case-by-case basis.

"Our teams need to ensure these venues can operate in a Covid-safe manner before any new designation can be considered and they can reopen their doors."

Meanwhile the permanent secretary declared there was no increased risk to the public following the death of a Covid-19 patient on Monday.

The 61-year-old man, who had returned from the United States earlier this month, was the second person to die while isolated in hospital.

Fong said staff involved in the care of Covid-19 patients had all adhered to strict infection prevention and control protocols.

"I want to assure every Fijian that this latest fatality - while tragic - does not pose a risk to the public.

"It has now been 129 days since Fiji has recorded a new case of Covid-19 in our communities. We aim to maintain that unbroken streak."

Fong said all health staff were be quarantined in a government-designated facility and had to produce a negative Covid test result in order to be released.

He said Fiji's border tests and in the community showed the country was able to "contend with an outbreak, contain that outbreak and then go more than 100 days without a resurgence".

But he said with over 23 million confirmed cases and 800,000 deaths around the world, no one should take Fiji's Covid-contained status for granted.

"Australia and New Zealand are both contending with new outbreaks of the virus, as are Papua New Guinea and French Polynesia."