Non-compliance is biggest COVID threat: Fiji Defence Minister


Minister for Defence Inia Seruiratu says Fijians are not playing their part in helping to end the COVID-19 outbreak in Fiji.

With case numbers above 20,000 and about 200 people dead, Seruiratu has told parliament that government measures and restrictions are futile without public acceptance and compliance.

“Our complacency and disobedience are perhaps the greatest security threat to our hopes to contain this virus and return our lives to normalcy. We can’t win this fight if we don’t play our part in this battle”.

The minister said the other challenge – which in some respects is more challenging than COVID-19 – is human rights.

However, Seruiratu also said that the collective security of all Fijians must take precedence over individual rights.

“My portfolio of ministries including the security forces will continue to ensure compliance. It shouldn’t have to take the government to come down hard on people by instituting lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus. It shouldn’t have to take the alarming rates of cases and deaths to get us to realise the seriousness of the pandemic”.

Seruiratu has urged all Fijians to get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the use of tents as isolations facilities and container refrigeration of bodies is not normal.

However, this will pass if Fijians adhere to the public health safety measures.

Minister for Health, Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete said Fijians need to get vaccinated so that the increasing case numbers and deaths can be stopped.

The Public Health Amendment act came into place on 12 July and Dr Waqainabete said the Fiji Police Force has played a vital role in ensuring the measures are followed.

“In the first week, the police team conducted 556 bookings. Of these 245 bookings were related to no facemasks, 89 bookings were in relation to public service vehicles and 69 bookings were gathering offences”.

The Minister for Health further highlighted that they are having dialogue in terms of securing vaccines for those below the age of 18.

“European Union has made that recommendation on this recently. We are on track to have all the fully age-eligible individuals vaccinated and to have enough vaccines to be able to reach out to children below the age of 18 when that guidance comes through”.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services has been allocated $403 million (US$200 million) to beef up its resources. $25 million (US$12 million) is specifically dedicated to COVID-19 response.
In another development, the New Zealand Ministry of Health is in discussions with Fiji about bringing a Covid-19 patient to New Zealand.

It would involve a possible air transfer of the person, who needs hospital-level care.

The ministry said any patient coming from Fiji, or any other country, would be covered by protocols to protect against the risk of spreading Covid.

The ministry said it hadn’t received a formal request at this stage, but was aware of the demand on health services in Fiji and would be looking to see what assistance could be provided.