Extended lockdown will cripple Fiji says PM
June 12, 2021 8:05 am
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has put his foot down that a 28-day lockdown is out of the question as Fiji fights its second wave of COVID-19.
While addressing the nation last night Bainimarama says shutting down completely is a drastic measure that does not completely guarantee success.
He adds that there is no need to go through the pandemic by shutting people in their homes and shuttering the windows of every business in the country because the outbreak is localized, and not all over the country.
“The 24-hour curfew for the whole of Viti Levu would put all of us face to face with economic disaster and miserable isolation. If we took that route after we spent nearly 700 hours shut in our homes, Fiji would look vastly and cruelly different when we all re-emerge. People’s jobs may never return, we would suffer structural unemployment through the permanent loss of the industries and I cannot allow that to happen and I will not.”
Bainimarama says Fiji is far from a desperate scenario which would warrant an extended nationwide lockdown.
“Growing numbers of cases are not good news by any means but when we look into those numbers, we can understand that as long as we can find and contain the new cases, we can contain or slow the spread by quarantine people who suspect maybe positive and isolating those who have positive already so those who now call for 28 days of lockdown misunderstand the virus and disregard what that order would mean for our people.”
The Prime Minister says those calling for a shutdown which would last close to a month, need to think of vulnerable Fijians.
“It is easy to call for drastic measures like 28 days of straight lockdown for the whole of Viti Levu if you are still in a high-paying job or have a healthy savings account. It is easy to call for a lockdown if you do not depend on day-to-day wages or struggle to pay bills for a business that is closed. It is easy to call for a lockdown if you don’t work at a factory that might permanently leave Fiji if they must shut down completely for 28 days.”
He adds if the government takes this step, garment factories and call centres, that cannot serve overseas clients will lose those contracts and the jobs they support forever.
“Businesses, large and small, that thrive because of this economic activity could shut forever as well. Those are the ordinary Fijians who we are thinking about; the factory employees, the car mechanics and washers, the market vendors, the cash crop farmers, taxi and other public service vehicle drivers, construction workers, wait staff, the micro, small and medium business operators. If they can work safely, if they choose to work safely, they should be able to work safely.”
He says even richer, developing countries have never successfully implemented total lockdowns as the virus has eventually re-emerged – even after 30 days.
The Prime Minister stresses that Fiji will get through the ordeal by an intelligent and targeted application of measures to contain the spread until enough Fijians are vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.