17 Sep 2021

Fiji Govt outlines strategy to reopen borders

5:54 pm on 17 September 2021
An island in the Yasawa Group, one of Fiji's tourist playgrounds

An island in the Yasawa Group, one of Fiji's tourist playgrounds Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

Despite daily reports of Covid-19 infections in the community, with an increase in cases on the remote islands, Fiji's Government is pressing ahead with its plans to reopen the Pacific island nation to the world.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has outlined his Government's plan to lift its international border restrictions on 1 November.

But this would only come about, he told the nation, when Fiji achieved the 80-percent vaccination target set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Bainimarama is confident Fiji will meet the WHO threshold come November.

The Health Ministry said as of 16 September, 580,504 adults in Fiji have received their first dose of the vaccine and 372,434 have received both jabs.

"This means that 97.7 percent of the target population have received at least one dose and 63.5 percent are now fully vaccinated nation-wide," the ministry said in a statement.

The Ministry also confirmed there were 12,978 active cases in isolation, with the death toll at 544.

The Government lifted internal border restrictions for the main island Viti Levu on Friday. These restrictions were imposed since April when the latest outbreak began.

However, inter-island travel and a curfew from 9pm to 4am remained.

There are more than 800 people infected with Covid-19 in the remote islands of Kadavu, Beqa, with Malolo, Naviti, Nacula, Waya and Naviti, in the Yasawas and Macuata Province in Vanua Levu, Fiji's second largest island.

Social gatherings of up to 20 people will now be permitted indoors in people's homes nation-wide. For outdoor venues, up to 30 people are allowed, the Fijian leader said.

Bainimarama also said that from October 4, all workplaces, tertiary institutions, houses of worship, hotels, restaurants, cafés, cinemas, gyms, and pools would be able to open at 70 percent capacity.

However, he said these places would only be opened to fully-vaccinated persons.

"With well over half of adults in Fiji fully vaccinated, our Covid-19 Risk Mitigation Taskforce has developed a careful framework that details the next phase of our response."

Tourism staff in Fiji greet visitors to their resort in the Yasawa Islands

Tourism staff in Fiji greet visitors to their resort in the Yasawa Islands Photo: Kate Livingstone

What visitors to Fiji need to know

Fully vaccinated travellers from 'green list' countries must ensure they register a negative Covid-19 test result within 72 hours of their departure to Fiji.

The pre-departure approval could be obtained online, the prime minister said.

The exclusive green list countries are those with similar high rates of vaccination to Fiji and low test positivity rates.

Bainimarama said once Fiji had achieved its vaccination target, it would be in a "better position" to open quarantine-free travel with countries that had helped send Covid-19 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca) to Fiji.

At this point, that includes New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Canada, Korea, Singapore, and parts of the United States, the prime minister said.

"We will be establishing mutually recognized vaccine protocol agreements with these governments, which essentially shows that we are comfortable with their levels of vaccine coverage.

"We can also rely on the vaccine status of their travellers and, vice versa, that Fijians can prove their vaccine status when travelling abroad."

Bainimarama said visitors can be assured that everybody they interacted with in Fiji would be fully vaccinated "from their fellow hotel guests and staff to the tour operators."

He said visitors would vacation in designated travel-safe areas for five days and clear another Covid-19 test before they could travel throughout the country.

"Once they arrive, these travellers can vacation in designated travel safe areas where they can enjoy the best of Fiji knowing that everyone they interact with will be fully vaccinated, from their fellow guests to the hotel staff, to the tour operators.

"We're drawing up the boundaries of these travel safe areas in close cooperation with the tourism industry. We will have regular in-country testing and clear protocols in the event of breakthrough infections.

"We expect to be ready to accept travellers well before our goal of celebrating Christmas in Fiji with our friends from around the world. We are also accommodating for the long-awaited reunions between friends and family throughout the Fijian diaspora."

The prime minister said protocols for quarantine centres would remain for visitors who were not vaccinated or who were not travelling to Fiji from a green list country.

PM Frank Banimarama addresses the Fiji Tourism Awards

PM Frank Banimarama addresses the Fiji Tourism Awards Photo: Fiji Govt

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