3 May 2021

Floods hamper Covid-19 response in Fiji

3:49 pm on 3 May 2021

Heavy rain and flooding are hampering efforts by Fiji authorities to respond to the country's Covid-19 community outbreak.

Fijians woke today to the lifting of a snap-lockdown imposed since Saturday in Suva and surrounding towns after dozens of community cases of Covid-19 were confirmed.

While there were no new cases of the virus overnight, the Health Ministry is urging the public to not let their guard down.

Homes along River Road in Narere.

Homes along River Road in Narere. Photo: Supplied/Fiji NDMO

Health Secretary Dr James Fong said since 4am local time, the Suva-Nausori lockdown zone will revert into two separate containment areas.

He said this meant that within these containment areas, only movement for essential purposes may resume.

Fong said that just because Fiji had no new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, it does not mean people can relax and celebrate.

According to him, 1,212 tests and 7560 community screenings were completed on Saturday.

"But no confirmed cases - at this stage - is no reason for celebration," Fong said.

"It doesn't mean there are no cases out there; it means none have been detected over the past 24 hours.

"We are certain there are more cases that will develop or - worryingly - that an unconfirmed case of the virus has already developed into a highly contagious disease.

"Our biggest fear right now is that someone, with symptoms, has not reported to a screening clinic or called 158."

This virus arrives in waves, Fong said adding a lull could often signal a surge in cases.

He urged the public not to let "one day of no new cases fool anyone into thinking this storm is over".

Flash floods hamper screen, test efforts

The authorities have been dealt a new blow with flooding in some containment areas following heavy rain over the weekend.

Fong said the bad weather has hampered the ministry's screening and testing programme in these areas.

A heavy rain warning is in place for most parts of the country and some places like Waidamudamu in Nausori had experienced flooding since Saturday.

Flooding has also led to some houses being inundated in River Road, Narere, a suburb in Nasinu, a town within the the Suva-Nausori corridor.

Some residents have called on the authorities to clear up debris mounds from recent development in the area that are blocking water drainage.

Meanwhile, the Water Authority said a landslide at the Wainibuku Reservoir had caused supply disruptions to the containment Suva-Nausori corridor.

It said a major fault on the Waila-Wainibuku bulk water mains, which "caused significant disruptions this morning was the dislocated pipeline as a result of a major landslide last night".

Based on their initial assessments, the authority said the landslide took out their pipes and the force of the landslide pushed apart or dislocated their pipeworks.

Repair works were underway, the authority said.

Food rations continue to be delivered to the containment areas.

Food rations continue to be delivered to the containment areas. Photo: Facebook/Fiji govt

Help for domestic violence victims amid lockdown

People experiencing any form of violence are being urged to contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline.

Fong said when it came to Covid-19, staying at home was the safest course for everyone.

But he said in Fiji and around the world, there was an "ugly side to the lockdown measures".

"Without the proper resources and support, they can make the already vulnerable more vulnerable than ever," Dr Fong said.

"The Prime Minister had called domestic violence an ugly scourge on our society and during a crisis, we know these horrific crimes can occur more often.

"Someone, right now, is stuck at home with an abuser. That is a tragic reality that we cannot turn away from."

Fong urged domestic violence victims to contact the domestic violence helpline number 1560 or the child helpline 1325.

"You can call at anytime, any day of the week, to report a crime. Even if you just need someone to talk to, call either of those numbers. That applies for children, for women, and for men as well."

Anyone could be a victim, and that support is available to anyone who needs it, Fong said.

Dozens arrested for alleged curfew breach

Fiji police arrested 39 people in the last 24 hours for breach of curfew orders including those who failed to comply with the health restrictions.

Acting Commissioner of Police, Rusiate Tudravu, said the Western Division had recorded 20 arrests whereby 17 people were detained for failing to comply with the health restrictions in place.

He said three arrests were recorded for breach of curfew orders.

"Fifteen people were arrested in the Southern Division for breaching curfew orders," Tudravu said.

"The Eastern Division recorded three cases including two people who were arrested for not complying with health restrictions while a case was recorded for breach of curfew."

Tudravu said only one case was recorded in the Northern Division for breach of curfew.

Meanwhile, 10 Vanuatu students at the University of the South Pacific's Suva campus appeared in court on Saturday charged with failure to comply with lawful orders.

The students were arrested on Friday after they were found drinking alcohol at a home.

They all pleaded guilty and were fined $US148 bond each.

The court had ordered the students to pay the fines in a month or they would face 30 days imprisonment.

Water Authority engineers carry out repair works on the damaged pipeline.

Water Authority engineers carry out repair works on the damaged pipeline. Photo: Facebook/Fiji govt