Fijians have been urged to prepare themselves for the worst amid the escalating Covid-19 crisis in the country.
With daily record infections and deaths confirmed by the health authorities, the government is being pressured to impose a national lockdown.
On Wednesday there were 791 new cases and three deaths. On Thursday there were 721 new cases and six deaths due to the Delta variant. Health Secretary James Fong revealed five of the six who died had not been vaccinated while the sixth had only one dose.
Despite the numbers, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has maintained he will not enforce a full shutdown on the country because this would only cripple the economy.
However Neil Sharma, who served as Health Minister between 2009 and 2014 under the FijiFirst government, warned Fiji is already crippled.
Dr Sharma said there has been widespread frustration and confusion on social media with Fijians venting their anger at the situation.
More than 20 percent of the population live in squalid conditions, he said and these included informal and squatter settlements.
"Many of these people have been made redundant as a result of no employment and they need to buy food. They have been drawing out of their savings, including their pension funds, to sustain their livelihoods.
"There's also a limit to what the government can provide. In fact, the government has no money but it's not verbalising its position so the people can understand.
"The NGOs are working with some of these communities to provide food and basic items."
Dr Sharma said in the face of escalating covid cases and medical facilities being overwhelmed across the central and western divisions where the outbreak is centred, it was important that Fijians take every possible step to prepare themselves for the worst-case scenario.
"It is bound to get worse because the cases are escalating and when you look at the international data the deaths follow in a week and 10 days time.
"So you're going to get more deaths, you are going to get more cases and we'll have this scenario where it will spread into the community. And then without a lockdown, we have another problem."
Fijians urged to go back to basics
Dr Sharma urged families to stock up on non-perishable items for at least a fortnight.
"Continue your backyard gardening for food security and physical activities. We need only two meals a day, so reduce your meals and eat healthy and try intermittent fasting.
"We've got to go back to the land and plant something. We've got to fish for your protein. So we're saying 'go and do your backyard gardening', your little teiteis we call it.
"Plant your cassava so that you are sustainable using natural food as prices of food are already on the increase because transportation is not there."
Dr Sharma urged those eligible to get the vaccine to do so.
Just over 57.2 percent (335,331) of the targeted population have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine while 10.2 percent (59,574) got both jabs.
"The vaccination rollout is being done in dribs and drabs. What we need is an effective vaccination programme preceded by good public awareness.
"We need to get the NGOs involved, the church and community leaders working with the government to address the pandemic."
Dr Sharma also said because of the stress caused by the virus, people should spend time engaged in fulfilling activities.
"Spend time teaching your children on human values - kindness, respect, compassion, empathy, teach children to read and tell stories to improve their vocabulary and public speaking later in life."
He said people needed to take Covid-safe measures very seriously.
"Use your face masks and sanitizers when out of your "bubble" for groceries and marketing.
"On return from outside your home environment, change your clothes, wash shower and then only cuddle your children and family members.
"Be cautions if neighbours, relatives or members of your family bubble show signs of Covid-19-like cough, fever, muscle pain, diarrhoea, loss of taste, smell especially. Seek early medical attention.
"Do not entertain guests or relatives if possible. They can bring infection into your home environment."
Dr Sharma said smokers should be very cautious as lung disease could worsen their outcome if infected.
Fiji now has over 6,000 positive people in isolation.