The curfew that was enforced in 2020 since the first wave of COVID-19 outbreak in Fiji has been lifted.
“From Monday 07 February, which is from midnight tonight, the curfew will be lifted. Not moved. Not shifted. Lifted, completely, says Fiji’s Acting Prime Minister and Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.
Khaiyum in his national address said the curfew was implemented to prevent non-essential gatherings that can spread the virus and allow for reliable contact tracing at certain hours in the evening.
“In some ways, it served as the national barometer of progress towards normalcy, as we moved the start time from 6 pm, hour by hour, to midnight in recognition of reaching our vaccination targets. Now, it’s removed entirely.
“We recognise that the curfew had other benefits unrelated to the virus itself. We’ve spoken with many households, in particular, who have told us that they were grateful to have their children and loved ones at home more often because of the curfew. These are benefits that came unexpectedly, and hopefully, most people will continue to spend more time with their loved ones, at home, and take care of their community.
“Of course, we can’t justify the continuation of a curfew for the sake of just these benefits. But we want to highlight them nonetheless. Because if you are someone who found they spent more quality time at home, became more productive or studied more, you can make the choice to keep those good habits,” he said.
Sayed Khaiyum said the pandemic has taught Fijians all some hard lessons and the more insights we take out of it the better –– lessons from the hard times but also the good times we have had with our families and loved ones.
“The curfew also meant less movement and therefore fewer opportunities for criminals. We’ve taken this matter very seriously and we’ve been in discussions with the Fiji Police Force for weeks to review their capacity and strategy to contain criminal activity. With the curfew lifted, our Police are adopting a new posture to uphold public safety, putting more boots on the ground in communities and high-traffic areas to crack down on criminality”.
He said even though the curfew is removed, nightclubs will not be allowed to operate.
“However, taverns, many of which used to be licensed as nightclubs, may open until 1 am at 80 percent capacity throughout Fiji, provided that seating is properly spaced out, dancing is not allowed, and all areas are well ventilated.
As for our other health measures, the following changes take effect from today:
*Public Service Vehicles can operate at full capacity, which includes buses, mini-buses, carriers and taxis however we will continue to enforce mask-wearing onboard all vehicles.
*Indoor and outdoor sporting events, including competitive sports, may be held with spectators at 80% capacity provided those spectators wear masks.
*Businesses, venues, and houses of worship may open at full capacity, with the exception of high-risk businesses, which must operate at 80 percent capacity. High-risk businesses include cinemas, bars, taverns, gyms, hairdressing and salon services, tattoo parlours, and gaming venues.
*The careFIJI App and QR will not be required for entry into businesses and venues anymore because we are not presently relying on contact tracing as part of our COVID-19 response. The careFIJI App may be required again in the future if the epidemiological situation changes, so please keep the app on your phone so it is easily available if needed.
*The Vax Check tool is also no longer required for use by businesses given that Fiji is a highly vaccinated society. However, the high-risk businesses that we’ve just listed out and all Care Fiji Certified businesses will be required to check the vaccination cards of their patrons and customers. It is the responsibility of businesses to enforce COVID-safe behaviour on the premises. The fines for violations remain in effect.
*There is no more restriction on informal gatherings, including gatherings at home, effective immediately.
We’ve also developed clearer guidance on where masks are required to be worn. The full guidance on mask-wearing will be published online.
He said Australia recently made a change to its testing requirements for their citizens returning from international travel by accepting rapid antigen tests as an alternative to PCR tests. We’re adding that same option.
“Travellers 12 years and above entering Fiji from a Travel Partner Country may produce a negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) taken within 24 hours of the flight’s scheduled departure. In other words, the more expensive PCR tests are no longer required to board flights to Fiji. Details of acceptable test-kits are published online,” said Sayed Khaiyum.
He said the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, will continue to monitor the global epidemiological situation and may re-introduce more stringent risk reduction measures if required.
“We’re also reviewing the requirement of a three-day Care Fiji Certified Accommodation requirement for arrivals into Fiji in favour of an entry system that allows passengers to submit confirmation of a booked COVID-19 test in Fiji within 48 hours of landing in Fiji. Before we make that change, we need more testing sites open in Fiji.
“We’ve put out an expression of Interest for the private sector and we encourage more people to apply so that we can open as many testing sites as possible. We’ll have more details to announce on that policy shift soon.
“All Care Fiji Certified hotels, transport operators, and businesses must welcome this flexibility with stronger adherence to the measures that are required to maintain their certifications. If you fail to meet the high bar of COVID safety we’ve set for our visitors, our COVID safe Ambassadors and Police will shut you down. We cannot tolerate one bad apple in our tourism sector spoiling the bunch for all those who are following the rules,” he said.
Sayed Khaiyum said these easings of restrictions mean a great deal for the Fijian economy and for the restoration of livelihoods.
“With the ease of restrictions locally and testing requirements made easier and more affordable, we’ll create more local economic activity and attract more tourists. That means more business, including for micro and small businesses, more demand, and more jobs for our people. And it will further consolidate our path towards record-breaking economic growth.
He has also urged Fijians not vaccinated to get their jab and fully vaccinated people to get their booster shot.
“But there are some people, a tiny minority, who are not yet vaccinated. We urge them to get vaccinated. We are only able to rollback these measures because of the high rate of vaccination we have achieved, but there’s more we want to be able to do, including getting our cinemas, hair salons, gyms, tattoo parlours and all the other businesses currently operating under capacity restrictions to fully reopen and get back more jobs for Fijians.
“So to those who are not fully vaccinated, our message is to please get it done. And those who are eligible for boosters, please get boosted. Getting vaccinated and getting boosted is the best way we can protect the progress we’re announcing today and ensure that none of these health protection measures need to come back into force.
Let’s also please use these new freedoms responsibly and continue with the common-sense measures, like mask-wearing, physical distancing and good handwashing and sanitising, that can keep us safe,” said Sayed Khaiyum.