As Fiji responds to an ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, almost all travel to the main island of Viti Levu from other islands within Fiji has been shut down.
Several new restrictions have been imposed to try to stop the ongoing spread of the virus, including shutting down travel, as the number of cases in the latest outbreak passed 300 since it began in April.
Transport secretary Shaheen Ali said anyone wanting to travel to Viti Levu must now seek permission and register with the ministry. Permission would be limited to those with medical reasons, and those making long-term relocations.
He said people must provide a reason for wanting to go, their preferred mode of travel, and their intended address on Viti Levu.
As with the repatriation of Fiji nationals stranded overseas due to the pandemic, Ali said the government also has a duty of care for its people at home.
"As much as movement needs to be restricted, there are hundreds of displaced Fijians who haven't seen their families for so long.
"There are children as young as two-years-old without their parents. There are elderly and vulnerable who do not have appropriate care.
"As we did repatriate Fijians stranded overseas we have a duty of care for Fijians domestically."
Ali said the relocations would not be for a short period, "not just a few days visit. It must be for a permanent relocation or medical reasons".
He said those who who want to travel from Viti Levu to the non-containment zones or other containment zones would be advised of the requirements and movement protocols as soon as they are finalised.
Chief opposes quarantine relocations to Nadi
A high chief in Nadi said his people were strongly opposed to people in quarantine being relocated to their province from the Central Division.
The ministry of health said last week that primary or close contacts of cases that tested negative on their entry and fourth-day tests were to serve the rest of their 14-day quarantine in Nadi.
However, since the local transmission of Covid-19 cases began from a quarantine facility in Nadi, Tui Nadi Ratu Vuniyani Navuniuci said there was no guarantee another quarantine facility breach would not occur.
The Tui Nadi said he was disappointed and could not understand the reasoning behind housing them in Nadi.
"I strongly oppose that idea," he told the Fiji Times, adding there was no prior consultation by the relevant authorities.
"The feedback I have received from all the turaga-ni-koro within the yavusa is of total rejection to the idea.
"We have been strictly observing all the relevant government directives pertaining to the current health crisis, however, we are strongly against the idea of relocating contacts of positive Covid-19 cases from the Central Division to Nadi."
Ratu Vuniyani said the first Covid-19 case of the recent outbreak started in Nadi and "we tried and worked hard to contain the virus. Now we suddenly have new cases from Korociri after going 14 days with no cases, and again we are trying to contain the virus".
The Tui Nadi said there was no guarantee there wouldn't be any more breaches at any hotels in Nadi used as quarantine facilities.
Critics have said the move to shift some people undergoing quarantine to Nadi was due to a shortage of suitable accommodation sites in the Central Division.
But Health Secretary Dr James Fong said national interest takes precedence during times of crisis.
How did the outbreak begin in Nadi?
The Health Ministry said a soldier allegedly contracted the virus from the baggage of a couple who travelled from India.
A few days later a maid at the facility tested positive after reportedly interacting with the soldier while cleaning his room.
Yet another soldier from another quarantine facility then interacted with the first soldier while on his way home, this second soldier then allegedly infected his wife when he visited their home in Makoi, kicking off the Makoi cluster.
The Makoi soldier also reportedly infected another local who had already completed his 14-day quarantine period.
Curfew and border passes extended
Meanwhile, curfew and border passes for the movement of essential goods across containment and non-containment zones have been extended by the Health Ministry, in consultation with the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport.
The extension comes into effect from 1 June, 2021, with these conditions:
- The extension of manual passes will allow ample time for essential businesses and critical infrastructure agencies to adapt to the newly-established digital Covid portal pass.
- Both ministries will continue to issue manual border curfew passes for valid reasons other than for business purposes; this will include applicants who are not able to apply digitally for a pass.
- This extension of manual curfew and border business passes only applies to bizpasses issued from 24 April, 2021, throughout the next 14 days grace period. This will allow both ministries and businesses to make necessary adjustments;
- Manual and curfew border passes issued to essential businesses, infrastructure and transport by the Health and Trade ministries will continue to be effective until June 14, 2021;
To apply for a Covid business pass, visit www.covidpass.mcttt.gov.fj and for other matters requiring a curfew or border pass, email firstname.lastname@example.org