Asia Pacific Report newsdesk
The leader of Fiji’s opposition National Federation Party has condemned the government’s strategy for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic as having “failed” and warns it will lead to “catastrophic results”.
“The government plan is complacent and short-sighted,” said Professor Biman Prasad in a statement tonight in response to the “ominous total” of 1000 covid-19 cases, 700 of them currently active.
“The government thinks that the situation Fiji is facing now will stay the same. It is not planning for things to get worse.
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“Yet every lesson, from every country in the world, should tell it otherwise.”
Dr Prasad’s statement followed a claim by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama yesterday that Fiji could not afford a lockdown, reports The Fiji Times.
The prime minister has shut out calls for a complete 28-day lockdown of Viti Levu, saying that would spell “economic disaster and miserable isolation”.
“And I cannot allow that to happen. I will not,” Bainimarama said.
‘Disaster without a lockdown’
Dr Prasad said: “The opposite is true. There will be health, economic and social disaster without a lockdown.”
The government believed in its containment strategy, he said.
“It could not keep the virus in the Suva-Nausori containment area when the numbers were low. The virus still escaped to the West. It is now multiplying there.
“If the containment strategy is working, how did the virus come to Naitasiri?
“Now, with more than 700 cases, the government’s strategy is to hope and pray that nothing else will go wrong. But even in well-run operations, things go wrong. And then what will the government do?
Dr Prasad said Fiji was now putting lives at risk.
“Most importantly the lives and health of our frontliners – doctors, nurses, health workers – is at risk,”he said.
‘Limited trained staff’
“We have only a limited number of trained health staff who can manage this crisis. What happens when they are taken out of action?
“Right now my greatest fear is for these people, who have been working long hours, at ever greater risk to themselves, to execute a politicians’ plan they do not believe in. Why isn’t the government thinking of them and listening to them?
Every day we delay a lockdown, we simply prolong the crisis. We know the coronavirus kills people. We now know that for many who survive, their long-term health is permanently damaged.”
If the government continued to be stubborn and blind, “we will end up in a crisis we can no longer handle by ourselves”.
“Australia and New Zealand will be forced to intervene to save Fiji from a health crisis that has become too big for it.
“And how many lives would have been lost by then, all because of the stubbornness and arrogance of this government?”
A plea for food protest in Nadi
The Fiji Times reports that residents currently on lockdown in a few settlements located beside Nawaka, Nadi, had taken to the streets yesterday to voice their frustration and their need for basic food items and groceries.
Police officers from Nadi stepped in to control the situation and reminded people their act was unlawful.
Food rations from the government arrived a few hours after the protest was staged by the concerned residents.
Meanwhile, in a virtual conference on covid-19, heads of political parties have called on the government to pull its resources together to ensure people in lockdown areas are being assisted.
UN help sought amid covid, climate crises
RNZ Pacific reports that Fiji has called on the United Nations to use its convening power to align affordable, accessible and efficient development finance to help the government address the covid-19 crisis and climate emergency in the country.
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum made the plea during a virtual meeting with the UN Assistant Secretary-General, UN Development Programme (UNDP) assistant administrator and director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia-Pacific, Kanni Wignaraja last week.
During the discussion, Sayed-Khaiyum highlighted Fiji’s response to covid-19 and potential areas of support that the UNDP could provide to enable swift and inclusive post-covid recovery.
He said Fiji intended to encourage public-private investments in economic diversification by creating a sustainable ‘blue economy’.