18 Nov 2021

Covid-19: Fiji eases restrictions further

8:44 am on 18 November 2021

Health authorities in Fiji say once the country achieves 90 percent vaccination rate, Covid-19 restrictions will be eased further.

These include the current curfew hours of 11pm-4am which are expected to be slightly eased to start at midnight.


.. Photo: Fiji govt

The Health Ministry said on Monday 97 percent of the adult population (599,423) had received one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while 89.6 percent (553,943) were fully vaccinated.

For children aged 15-17, 33,467 of them had received their first dose while 23,858 had both jabs.

"We had expected to fully vaccinate 90 percent of the eligible adult population in Fiji by November 13. Pending confirmation of the 90 percent threshold, the curfew hours were to move to midnight to 4am from Sunday November 14," Health Secretary Dr James Fong said.

"Unfortunately, logistical issues posed challenges in vaccinating the remaining 10 percent of vaccine-eligible adults. We will continue our vaccination efforts and review the data mid-week. Curfew hours will remain from 11pm to 4am."

On November 11, the Fijian government removed restrictions on night businesses and large scale events, making way for nightclubs to operate for the first time in eight months.

Brandon Diriba is Head Bartender at the O'Reilly's Bar, an Irish company which operates Fiji's biggest chain of liquor shops, night-clubs, pubs and restaurants.

The company opened to 200 guests last weekend and Diriba says only fully vaccinated patrons are being allowed in.

"We thought we were going to be quiet tonight, but the outcome was pretty good," Diriba said.

Bar manager Julius Salato says they turned to their landlord for rent relief when the Covid crisis worsened.

Bar manager Julius Salato says they turned to their landlord for rent relief when the Covid crisis worsened. Photo: RNZ Pacific/Lice Movono

"Our occupancy is 240," Diriba said. "But we had about close to 200 and that was with strict Covid protocols.

"We went with that (the protocols) and the customers understood what was at risk, and they helped us.

"It was pretty tough and pretty challenging. No one expected what happened, but now you see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's so good to see the staff back at work again, earning money."

A few metres up on the same stretch in the heart of the capital Suva, is the brand new Opium Bar which was scheduled to open in April - on the week that a breach at a quarantine facility let the delta variant of Covid back into Fiji.

The owners had set up shop in the capital following the downturn in the Nadi economy, hoping to benefit from the Suva economy which had continued to operate after the travel industry shut Nadi down.

Julius Salato, the Head Bartender at Opium, said they turned to their landlord, Bank of South Pacific, for rent relief when the crisis worsened.

"It felt great just to see familiar faces, new faces, and getting back to some sort of normalcy into our lives after months of being in lockdown. It took almost a year to get this project up and running," Salato said.

"We were planning to open in April. And then the second wave of Covid entered our shores, then everything had to be put on hold. We were still paying rent but we were fortunate that our landlord, BSP was helping us with rent.

"It felt good just to get back to work, start making some money and just serving the people making them happy. Because we know a lot of people have been in lockdown for so long. And it's good to see them smiling again. Everyone came out tonight."

The Wearing Fiji Fashion show was among national events returning last weekend since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in March 2020.

The Wearing Fiji Fashion show was among national events returning last weekend since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in March 2020. Photo: Tourism Fiji/Allan Stephen

Fiji reopens its borders to tourists from December 1 and Tourism Fiji is expecting 80,000 visitors in December and January.

Wearing Fiji, a fashion project supported by Tourism Fiji, staged its first major event since being not allowed for almost two years.

Tourism Fiji's chief executive Brent Hill said the Care Fiji Commitment programme, an inter-secretarial commitment designed by the government to make the country tourist ready, expects about 40,000 Australians to fly to Fiji once holidaymakers are allowed in.

"Slowly, but surely, we're continuing to relax some of those restrictions. And I think that the way that it's been done in Fiji is really well planned and executed. And, you know, we're not opening too much altogether, we're just doing it slowly, by keeping everybody safe.

"That's the main thing, you know, we want to be in a position where everyone gets to enjoy themselves, but we can still do it safely. So it's incredibly exciting to think that events wil be happening back again, like Wearing Fiji. And that's the kind of thing that tourism Fiji want to get behind.

"I think that it's a really important part of the whole process is, we really want everybody to benefit from, what is looking like, 35,000 to 40,000 tourists a month coming in December and, and that number again in January.

"So, from that perspective, we want all of the businesses not just, resorts to benefit. So, from that perspective, I think, as we continue to meet all of our vaccination targets, and know that we can, safely reopen, according to our protocols, I think it's incredibly exciting.

"I know that that's what tourists are looking for, when they come to Fiji, they want the full breadth of experience, and there's a lot of people who come just to relax, but there's also people who want to, get out and experience Fiji and have a bit of fun."

Brent Hill.

Brent Hill. Photo: Tourism Fiji/Michelle Cheer

Brent Hill said the effort between Tourism Fiji, the Ministry of Health and local business operators was working well with 600 businesses working towards serving visitors who will enter Fiji from next month.

"We're doing exceptionally well. I mean, it's a very thorough, detailed process. So it's not a process that can just happen overnight. And it's been going now for some time so we have many, many properties that are signed up to the Care Fiji commitment already.

"And now in terms of you know, businesses plus hotels, etc, were over 600 that are looking to have that care Fiji approval or care Fiji certified, which were advertising very heavily to tourists to basically say, 'look, you must look for a Care Fiji commitment, approved business or certified hotel in order to stay as safe as possible'.

"And I think that's the thing. I think tourists are looking for destinations that can offer them what Fiji has in our natural beauty. But I think they also want to make sure that they're safe and that they get home safely."

In its latest update on Monday, Fiji's Health Ministry said there were a total of 52,429 cases of Covid-19 since March 2020, with 52,359 from the latest outbreak that began in April this year.

There are currently 695 active cases in isolation, and the death toll is at 694, all but two of them since the April outbreak.

"We have recorded 588 Covid-positive patients who died from serious medical conditions they had before they contracted Covid-19; these are not classified as Covid deaths," said Dr Fong.

"Out of the total of Covid cases, 71 percent are from the Central Division, 28 percent from the Western Division, and 1 percent from the Eastern and Northern Divisions.

"Our National seven-day rolling average is 19 daily cases calculated for 11th November 2021," Dr Fong said.

A health worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine for a resident at a drive-through vaccination centre in Suva.

A health worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine for a resident at a drive-through vaccination centre in Suva. Photo: AFP / Leon Lord

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