Fiji eases restriction measures as more people get vaccinated

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Border restrictions on Fiji’s main island Viti Levu have been lifted Friday.

The move came after 62 percent of all adults are fully vaccinated and over 97 percent of the population have received their first jab.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said domestic travel is now open for the whole of Viti Levu.

“Inter-island travel, however, will remain highly controlled, including to Vanua Levu, until we achieve higher vaccination coverage in Vanua Levu and our outer islands,” Bainimarama said.

“With domestic travel open, public service vehicles will be able to operate at 70 per cent capacity.”

“Employers who were required under COVID-safe measures to transport staff to and from work will no longer need to do so.”

“Everywhere in Fiji, social gatherings of up to 20 people will be permitted indoors in people’s homes. For outdoor venues, we will allow gatherings of up to 30 people.

“From 04 October, all workplaces, tertiary institutions, houses of worship, hotels, restaurants, cafés, cinemas, gyms, pools, tattoo parlours will be able to open at 70 percent capacity, but only to fully-vaccinated persons. As part of our Vaccination Authentication Exercise –– we will be rolling out a VAX-Check tool that allows for real-time digital verification of vaccine status that venues can use to confirm the vaccine status of their patrons.

“When the doors of these venues open, all other COVID-safe measures must be strictly enforced. That means masks must be worn, two metres of physical distance should be maintained where possible, and careFIJI must be installed on everyone’s phones, with Bluetooth switched on. These relaxations are not for anyone to tread carelessly. We’re introducing new regulations that allow for spot checks on venues, businesses and houses of worship. Those who do not respect these measures risk serious fines or being shut down. I repeat you will be fined heavily or shut down if you do not follow these regulations”

“We must wield these new freedoms responsibly. Our journey to the new normal is a marathon, not a sprint. We have to move forward in step with the science at a careful and responsible pace. This war is not over and the defence is to continue to test, trace, and isolate COVID-19 positive patients,” said Bainimarama in his address to the nation Thursday.

Bainimarama said their advice for Fijians is to avoid places with lower vaccination coverage.

“If you are an unvaccinated Fijian living in an area with low vaccine coverage, do not wait another day to get the jab and if you are only partially vaccinated please maintain strict adherence to every COVID-safe measure and make sure to get your second jab.”

Bainimarama stressed that most Fijians are doing what needs to be done to put an end to this deadly virus.

“At the 70 percent threshold, the curfew hours for Viti Levu will move from 10 pm to 4 am. At the 80 percent threshold, the curfew will be from 11 pm to 4 am, we expect that all businesses will fully re-open to fully-vaccinated Fijians, all sports –– including team sports –– can be played again, like rugby, football and netball, and stadiums can re-open.

“In short, life in Fiji will look much like it did before this second wave of the virus struck us. But we need to strive for more than the Fiji of six months ago. Our goal is to free our country –– and our economy –– from the rut of the pandemic.

“For the sake of the tens of thousands of Fijians –– and their families –– who depend on our tourism industry, we are also preparing to re-open Fiji as one of the world’s safest tourism destinations. That re-opening depends on more than our vaccination rates –– it depends on the vaccination rates of other countries, as well as a great deal of work behind the scenes. For Fiji’s part, we are ticking every box of readiness,” Bainimarama said.

He said Fiji was “quickly becoming one of the safest countries in the world”.

“With well over half of adults in Fiji fully vaccinated, our COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Taskforce – which includes our top medical and policy experts – has developed a careful framework that details the next phase of our response.”

He said quarantine-free travel with the entire world will not be implemented in one go.

Bainimarama said it will be gradual, starting with travelers from exclusive “green list” areas with similar high rates of vaccination to Fiji and low test positivity rates.

He said once 80 percent of adults are vaccinated, Fiji will be in a position to open quarantine-free travel with other countries that have deployed Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines used in Fiji.

“At this point, that includes Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Korea, Singapore, and parts of the USA. We will be establishing mutually recognised vaccine protocol agreements with these governments, which essentially shows that we are comfortable with their levels of vaccine coverage and that we can rely on the vaccine status of their travelers and, vice versa, that Fijians can prove their vaccine status when traveling abroad.”

Bainimarama said travelers from potential green list areas must be fully vaccinated and receive pre-departure approval, which will be easily obtained online.

He said although these travelers will be fully vaccinated, they must also register a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of boarding their flight to Fiji.

“Once they arrive, these travelers 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. At the rate we are going, we expect to be ready to accept travelers well before our goal of celebrating Christmas in Fiji with our friends from around the world.”

The Prime Minister said Fiji are looking at re-opening international borders by November.

“Well-established protocols for quarantine centres will remain for people who are not vaccinated or who are not traveling to Fiji from a green list country.

“And we are also accommodating for the long-awaited reunions between friends and family throughout the Fijian diaspora. Fully vaccinated travelers from green list countries can travel throughout Fiji after spending five days within a travel safe area and clearing another negative COVID-19 test result,” said PM Bainimarama.

SOURCE: PACNEWS/FBC NEWS