Fijians spreading false information about the coronavirus in Fiji will feel the full brunt of the law, police have warned.
The reminder of the consequences of spreading misinformation comes after a church minister appeared in court today charged with breaching the country's Health Act.
The 48-year-old pastor was accused of creating public anxiety by posting anti-vaccination comments on social media.
According to police, he posted a series of short videos on Facebook which they said had created public alarm.
The posts called on people not to get vaccinated against the coronavirus because the "vaccine is evil," a police statement said.
Health Secretary James Fong said he was concerned at the misinformation circulating on social media about Covid-19.
He said these false comments only hampered the ministry's efforts to get Fijians vaccinated against the deadly virus.
"As of July 6th 329,837 adults in Fiji have received their first dose of the vaccine and 56,974 have received their second doses," Dr Fong said.
"This means that 56 percent of the target population has received at least one dose and 9.7 percent are now fully-vaccinated nation-wide."
He said people could check the ministry's vaccine dashboard to find real-time data on first-dose and second-dose numbers at the national, divisional and sub-divisional levels.
College slams colleague
Meanwhile, the Fiji College of General Practitioners has criticised a video posted on social media by one of its members against the Covid-19.
College president Ram Raju said the general practitioner's post on social media backs conspiracy theories and myths about the coronavirus and is not supported by any scientific evidence.
Dr Raju said the doctor's comments on the adverse side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine are being "misconstrued".
The video has since been removed by Facebook administrators with a notice issued that the content was not factual.
Dr Raju said the GP's comments did not reflect the views of the college.
"We do not condone any member spreading false information to the public," he said.
"It is a time for all of our healthcare workers to unite and educate the public about the truth and dispel all fears.
"Doctors are seen to be community leaders who should therefore exercise extreme care and restraint in posting any news on social media."
Dr Raju said the College of GPs supports the vaccination program rolled out by the Health Ministry.
He said they had held seminars on the subject well before the first case of Covid-19 was identified in Fiji in March last year.
"All our doubts were dispelled. At the moment, vaccination is the only method which can save lives against Covid-19.
"It's just like giving vaccination for a host of other diseases to save lives, like measles, diphtheria, tetanus, pneumonia, hepatitis, etc."
Dr Raju said there were some vaccination side effects that were to be expected.
"But getting Covid-19 is not a joke and these conspiracy theories need to be laid to rest.
"By vaccinating you are protecting yourself, your family and the population of Fiji."
Vaccination drive-through opens
Meanwhile, the public is advised that the covid vaccination drive-through centre at Suva's Albert Park will remain open.
The initiative was started by the Suva City Council and the Health Ministry.
The council's senior executive, Isikeli Tikoduadua, said they hoped the campaign would encourage more people to get vaccinated.
He said within the first hour, over 150 people had been through the gates and got their first jab.
"What it does, is you are in your own bubble which is a good thing. Second is for those who are physically challenged this is an opportunity for them not to get out but to get vaccinated inside their vehicle."
"This will actually tell us how effective this drive through is, and this is very exciting, very good way of vaccinating, this is the first time something is happening like this in Fiji, first ever drive-through. And it looks like a successful one."
According to a post on the Fijian Government's Facebook page, the ministry and police will work together to ensure that people accessing the drive-through site are able to go home during the curfew hours, should there be any delay.
The post stated that vaccination teams would take down details of people arriving at the drive-through facility.
It said these details would then be communicated to the police team at the park checkpoints for verification and clearance.
The nation-wide curfew, from 10pm to 4am, has been in place since the latest outbreak started in April.
Police arrested 84 people over the last 24-hour period for failing to wear a mask in a public place within a containment or lockdown zone.
Acting Police Commissioner Rusiate Tudravu said this was part of the police step-up in enforcing the mandatory wearing of masks and other health and curfew restrictions.
A total of 98 cases were reported for curfew order breach and health restrictions, he said.
Fiji now has over 6000 active cases in isolation and more than 40 deaths reported.