Statement from the Acting Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services, Monday, 6 July 2020

Bula Vinaka. 
 
Over the past several months, Fijian citizens from around the world have steadily returned home to Fiji through a medically-rigorous system of repatriation. Upon arrival, all returning citizens are required to spend 14 days in a government-funded quarantine facility under RFMF and Ministry of Health and Medical Services supervision where they are checked daily for symptoms. They must then register a negative COVID test result before entering the public. 
 
As this process has unfolded, we’ve been well-prepared for the likelihood of COVID cases developing among repatriating citizens. But as we’ve made clear, Fiji has the infrastructure, surveillance capabilities and local testing capacities to ensure these “quarantine cases” at the border present zero risk to the general public.
 
Mandatory quarantine for all returning travelers was introduced on the 28th of March, with mandatory testing coming into effect on the 23rd of April. Since that time, no returning traveler has entered the public without undergoing the full 14 days of quarantine and clearing a negative COVID test result. All of these quarantine facilities are under constant supervision, with support from the RFMF. No one can leave until they are medically-confirmed as free of the virus –– no exceptions. 
 
On the 4th of July, Ministry of Health and Medical services personnel detected COVID-like symptoms in a 66-year-old man who returned from India for a medical procedure during day three of his mandatory 14-day quarantine. He was tested and registered a positive COVID-19 test result last night. He has since been securely and hygienically transported to Nadi Hospital, where he is being kept in isolation. He is in stable condition. 
 
His son –– who travelled with him from India –– has also been moved into isolation at Nadi Hospital. The son is not displaying any symptoms. Regardless, we’ve had him tested with results expected tomorrow. 
 
The gentleman and his son arrived in Fiji on the 1st of July. From the moment of their arrival they have remained under careful and constant medical supervision.
 
The gentleman travelled from India on board a flight with 107 other travellers. These other passengers all remain securely in quarantine. As a precaution, all are being tested for the virus.
 
Tomorrow marks 80 days since we recorded our 18th case of COVID-19. While this case technically marks case number 19, this is a “border quarantine case” which was identified and securely contained by our stringent border protection protocols. It carries no risk of entering the community.
 
This latest case is why we’ve been careful not to label Fiji as “COVID-Free”. We believe –– so long as a nation welcomes back its own citizens –– it cannot reliably claim itself free of the virus. But because Fiji’s strict border protections have functioned as designed, Fiji retains its well-earned status as a COVID-Contained country.
 
Let this latest case go to show that –– while Fiji may be free of community-based transmission of COVID-19 –– this pandemic is still raging beyond our shores. We don’t expect this to be Fiji’s last border quarantine case of COVID-19. Other countries are reporting similar cases as a matter of course. Rest assured, Fiji has built an impregnable wall of strong border controls, strict quarantine surveillance and capable healthcare monitoring between border quarantine cases and Fijian communities.
 
Thank you. 

Statement by the Hon. Prime Minister J.V. Bainimarama on COVID-19 – Sunday, 21 June 2020

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all. 

On the 19th of March, Fiji confirmed our first case of the coronavirus.

Finally faced with the same enemy we had watched devastate highly-developed nations, we put fear aside and found faith in action. That same day, we announced a complete lockdown of the Lautoka area. In the coming weeks, we locked down the greater Suva area and parts of Vanua Levu as new cases were confirmed. Nationwide, we decisively rolled out public measures –– backed by strict enforcement –– to stop COVID in its tracks. We traced every known contact of every known case. And –– as the virus surged overseas –– Fiji slowly but surely broke every known chain of transmission in the country. 

It’s now 64 days since we confirmed our last new case of the virus and well over two weeks since the last of our patients registered full recoveries and returned home to their families. With no deaths recorded, Fiji has also led the world in the most reliable metrics of testing. Our progress has come despite contending with patients who went for weeks without showing symptoms. 

But even with all we’ve learned through the long and difficult months behind us, the world’s leading medical experts will tell you; the unknowns of this virus still vastly outweigh the knowns, and what we do know is constantly evolving. 

That’s all to say: zero cases does not mean zero risks. So, rushing back to life as we knew it can’t happen. But neither can we shut Fiji off from the world forever, locking our people out of jobs and paralyzing entire industries, like tourism.  

Rather, as one of the few nations on Earth to register such resounding success against the coronavirus, it has come to Fiji to light the way towards a post-COVID society –– to show the world how we can safely live again. Not by blindly stumbling ahead, but by confidently stepping forward, vigilant to both risks and opportunities. 

So, while some of you may be tuning in to hear about an easing of restrictions, I’m not here to talk about “returning to normal”. Today marks the start of a new normal to adapt to the new world we now live in. 

Much like our campaign to adapt Fiji to the rising seas and stronger storms brought by climate change, we must build our resilience to this virus from the ground up, not with seawalls of stone or concrete, but through the way each of us live our lives. Above all, this “new normal” demands social adaptation. We need to set a new standard of care among our people for their communities, their families, their relatives, neighbours and especially, for our most vulnerable citizens –– those most at-risk from COVID-19. 

Today, we’ll be announcing “Phase 2” of Fiji’s COVID-Safe Economic Recovery, laying out a framework for long-term changes in how we can get people back in their jobs, how we revitalise our industries, how we welcome visitors back to our shores and how we progressively rebuild Fiji’s economy to its full, historic strength, all while keeping health at the forefront of every decision. 

To keep pace with the ever-changing state of global affairs and remain in line with the best available medical information, this framework is flexible. New rules can come into play at any time, as has been the case from day one. 

This afternoon, I’ll be giving you a general overview of Phase 2. But all of the details of each phase, including every new business policy and border control, will be published in full online –– be sure to look to the Fijian Government’s website and Facebook page for more. A press briefing will be held later this afternoon with representatives from our entire COVID-Safe Economic Recovery Team, including our  health experts, to provide further detail and answer any questions you may  have.  


Our Ministry Economy has been working intimately with the ministries of Health and Medical Services, Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, business houses and various organisations to guide this COVID-Safe framework, and will continue to do so in overarching collaboration with our medical experts to ensure health compliance in the days, weeks, and months ahead. 

We’ve tied this next phase of our COVID response to the launch of the careFIJI App, a powerful new tool that allows us to notify users if they are exposed to the coronavirus. This App forms the foundation of Phase 2 of our recovery, and of the new normal we’re working to create. 

As you know, the practice of contact tracing was critical to Fiji’s success in breaking the chains of COVID-transmission. But much of that effort led by our contact tracing teams relied on people’s memories.

I’d ask all those watching to try and think of every person they’ve spent 15 minutes or more with over the past 28 days–– it’s difficult, isn’t it? careFIJI makes it easy. 

We’ll be playing a video after my remarks to explain exactly how it works. But, essentially, careFIJI uses Bluetooth technology on our phones to make contact tracing much faster and more accurate. It’s built on the very same technology that both Singapore and Australia have used to launch their own contact-tracing apps.

So, God forbid another COVID-positive person is among the public, if they have careFIJI installed, this App will allow the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to quickly notify any other careFIJI users who have been in contact with that individual.

If used by enough people, this will “break the chain” in a faster, more highly-targeted way. This would allow Fiji to limit the need for broader public health measures, like lockdowns. 

And careFIJI will do far more than make our contact tracing more efficient and effective. It will instill a sense of confidence in other countries –– showing the world, and our tourists, that Fiji is perhaps the safest nation on Earth to live, work, and holiday in. It will bring back lost jobs of our friends and neighbours. It will restore lost income, and put us back on track to economic greatness. That peace of mind has the potential to be the most powerful marketing campaign in Fijian history. 

But the success of this App ultimately rests in the hearts and hands of every Fijian. So I cannot stress enough –– the easiest way that you can help save lives and livelihoods, and to show that you care for Fiji’s recovery, is to download careFIJI and keep your Bluetooth turned on at all times.

If you have a smartphone, open Google Playstore or the Apple App store, search for careFIJI –– you’ll see the same logo like those around me now –– download it now, and switch on your Bluetooth. And just like that, you’ve already done your part to help return to a new normal. 

Because the App uses Bluetooth and not data for its core function, careFIJI itself takes almost no data to use once it’s installed. careFIJI is designed to be as easy, secure, and hassle-free as possible.

And if you’re worried about the data this App will use to install, don’t be. It takes around 10 megabytes to install the App. Once you do, thanks to an agreement struck by the Ministry of Communications, both Vodafone and Digicel have agreed to reimburse their customers with ten times that amount –– 100 megabytes –– free of charge. 

Our digitalFIJI team has developed a dedicated website which provides additional information about the careFIJI app. You can visit the website data-free by going to www-dot-carefiji-dot-digitalfiji-dot-gov-dot-fj.

Most of our public interactions take place in the workplace, wherever that may be. Especially for those of us working indoors for extended periods of time, our places of work can pose a serious risk, that’s why working Fijians must download careFIJI. 

Government is leading that push through example by mandating that all users of government issued phones, members of the disciplined forces, and users with phones issued by government-funded statutory bodies, download the careFIJI App. 

Entities in which the government holds an interest and social welfare recipients, other government assistance beneficiaries as well as civil servants should all download careFIJI. We’ll also be working closely with our private sector partners, particularly those in key economic sectors with large staff numbers, to encourage uptake of the App. 

But that’s not all the rigour Phase 2 demands. We’re asking every business, of every size and across every industry, to be leaders in your respective fields by drawing up their own gameplans for running safe, COVID-proofed operations. Every business in Fiji has the responsibility of adhering to our COVID-safe protocols, which have been comprehensively outlined, by industry, in the framework that will be posted online.

We aren’t sending the police to every workplace in the country to enforce these policies, this strategy relies on self-regulation –– it relies on businesses stepping up and doing the right thing for their customers and for their country. But if businesses aren’t complying, we won’t hesitate to go back on the easing of restrictions. 

In Phase 2, our nationwide curfew will remain in effect, but to allow for more economic activity and freedom of movement, it will now be enforced from 11pm and lifted at 4am. This is not just a matter of health, but a matter of public wellbeing. We’ve heard from countless Fijians, asking that the curfew be kept, saying that they feel safer with these restrictions. 

For that reason, effective from tomorrow, Monday, the 22nd of June, the Fiji Police Force will be enforcing curfew from the hours of 11pm until 4am. That revised curfew will remain in effect until further notice.

For many of the same reasons, nightclubs will stay closed.   

At the moment, gatherings of more than 20 people are banned. We had good reason to do so, as mass gatherings have been epicentres of outbreaks the world over. From Monday, the 22nd of June, we’ll be relaxing this restriction, allowing for gatherings up to 100 individuals. For the time being, this 100-person limit will apply to weddings, funerals, cafes, restaurants, conferences and other community gatherings. 

And all throughout Fiji, we need to start gathering not as large, uncontrolled masses, but as self-contained groupings.

I know our COVID restrictions have been difficult for Fijians of all faiths, as we often look to our religion to find comfort in times of contention and suffering. Meanwhile, across the world, we’ve seen large-scale outbreaks start in houses of worship, as families and friends greet, gather, and embrace –– and we couldn’t let the same fate befall Fiji. 

That’s why, over the past months, I’ve been proud to see Fijian Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and all worshippers find new ways to connect with God, even as some of the holiest days of religious calendars have passed. I thank religious leaders and their congregations for their understanding and leadership through these times, and in the weeks ahead, we will look to you for continued guidance as we adjust to the new normal. 

Effective from Friday, the 26th of June, we’re allowing houses of worship to re-open their doors to 100 worshippers at a time. Starting tomorrow, over the next three to four days, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services will be meeting with religious leaders to talk about how the “new normal” will look in houses of worship, and how they can adapt to protect Fijians who come to them. Science shows serious risks in houses of worship because of the close proximity, the intimacy of congregations and practices such as indoor singing –– so we’ll be working hand-in-hand with our churches, mosques, and temples to explain and limit these unique challenges.  

Because now more than ever, houses of worship need to be not a source of risk, but of refuge.

We are asking each church, mosque, and temple to share the burden of responsibility, and look after your worshippers with the same duty of care that is at the centre of all our efforts. Set up hand-washing stations. Limit physical contact, encourage distancing measures and consider holding more services to ensure adherence to the 100-person limit. And please, as the world continues to grapple with the pandemic and Fijians find themselves out of work, pray for relief and continued protection from COVID-19. 

There are over 238,000 students in Fijian schools across the country That’s larger than the population of many of Pacific Island countries. 

We didn’t rush back to reopening schools for good reason. Medical experts initially suspected children were some of the fastest spreaders of the virus. The latest studies have shown children aren’t the super-spreaders the experts initially thought they were, but they are not completely risk-free. So,  we needed to rethink the way we educate our children, by COVID-proofing our education system as much as possible. 

Our plan to reopen schools has catered for a realigned school curriculum, ensuring that all of Fiji’s schools are on the same page. It simply wouldn’t be fair for children in different schools to be disadvantaged just because of where they live, and which school they attend, whether public or private. 

That’s why we’ve taken the time to address our re-opening for the remainder of the 2020 school year with particular care, and will be resuming education in two stages:

To safely ease back into the academic calendar and give our school leaders the space to adjust, Year 12 and Year 13 students in our secondary schools will start classes on Tuesday, 30 June. This will allow them to get back into preparing for their exams –– a top priority to avoid longer-term disruption. Tertiary institutions as well can open for face-to-face classes from 30 June. 

The rest of the primary and secondary schools –– as well as early childhood education –– will open one week later, on Monday, the 6th of July.

Principals, teachers, and school management will be responsible for COVID-proofing their schools, practicing the healthy habits that we have embraced in every corner of COVID-safe economic recovery. Further details will be outlined by the Ministry of Education at the press briefing later today. 

Gyms, fitness centres and swimming pools –– both public pools and those at hotels –– will be permitted to re-open from Monday, the 22nd of June. Operators must keep these facilities clean and maintain contact tracing information for every person who uses their facilities by checking for careFIJI installation and keeping a manual log for those who don’t have smartphones.

Contact sports simply weren’t safe when community-based transmission posed a threat. With Fiji’s outbreak contained, we can safely reclaim our status as the beating heart of world rugby, and welcome back football, boxing and all other contact sports as well. 

Fijians are a sporting people and I know how much it means to fans across Fiji to attend games and see our athletes in action. We’ll be permitting live sporting events to resume, but with restrictions. Our formal indoor and outdoors sporting venues can host sporting events with spectators at 50 per cent capacity, so long as physical distancing is maintained within the venue. For informal sports events at the community level, the 100-person limit applies. We’ll review this policy in the very near future. Again, we look forward to the cooperation of sporting event organisers and –– I can’t stress this enough –– all spectators must download the careFIJI App. 

If any athlete at any level of play is feeling unwell, stay home.  Officials will be responsible for symptom screenings, and should not allow anyone who is sick to play. 

With the gyms back open and all sports open for play, I hope more Fijians take advantage of these opportunities to take greater ownership over their health and wellbeing.  This is a virus that preys on those with underlying health conditions, like NCDs. Healthier people handle it better and recover more reliably. I urge everyone to use this reopening to recommit to fitness. By doing so, we do some of the most important work of stepping up our people’s resilience to COVID-19.  


Our cinemas will also be able to re-open their doors from tomorrow, but under various conditions. Cinemas will be limited to 50 per cent of capacity. All groupings of theatre-goers –– friends and family members who attend and sit together –– will be required to sit 1.5 metres apart from other groupings or individuals. In between each showing, service areas need to be wiped down, seats deep cleaned and public areas must be thoroughly sanitised. 

And if you’re going to go to the movies, be prepared to quickly show your careFIJI App.

Our medical experts and economists agree: we can’t risk the health and economic losses of keeping our borders shut forever. Instead, we will carefully reopen our borders in a highly-controlled manner. By slowly and safely bringing back vital tourism revenue to Fiji, we will in fact be saving lives –– the long-term cost of complete closures and unemployment would risk doing immense harm to Fijians’ mental and physical health. This is the best way to economically adjust to the “new normal” in a way that considers all aspects of Fijians’ wellbeing. 

As Fiji’s cases have disappeared, and cases dwindle in Australia and New Zealand, we’ve been involved in serious discussions about spurring economic recovery through the reopening of regional travel. 

To lay the groundwork for integrated public health approaches critical to the reopening of our borders, Fiji’s leading medical experts –– Dr Aalisha, Dr Fong and Dr Tudravu –– are in talks with Professor Paul Kelly, Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, and are liaising with Professor Michael Baker, the Head of the University of Otago’s Public Health Department. This international, doctor-to-doctor collaboration will continue as we forge forward. 

While Australia and New Zealand work out their Trans-Tasman bubble, Fiji’s equal –– or arguably, greater –– success against the virus puts us in a position to take the lead in the Pacific. We’re working on our own bubble –– a “Bula Bubble”,  between Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. 

Working with Fiji Airways and Tourism Fiji, we’ll be welcoming Aussies and Kiwis to holiday in Fiji in a manner that is carefully controlled and safely insulated. Everywhere they go will be wholly dedicated to others who match the same criteria, safely guided by what we’re calling “VIP lanes” –– allowing them to Vacation In Paradise.  

To come to Fiji, Australian and New Zealand tourists can do one of the following:

Option One: Intending travellers must present a certificate from a recognised medical institution certifying their 14 days of quarantine in their home country, along with proof of a negative COVID test result within 48 hours of their departure for Fiji, at which point they can immediately start their “Bula Bubble” holiday within confined VIP lanes. 

OR

Option Two: Upon arrival in Fiji, they  can complete 14 days of quarantine at their own cost in a Fijian Government-designated quarantine centre or a hotel of their choosing, after which a negative COVID test can clear them to start their “Bula Bubble” vacation.  

This Bula Bubble will allow Aussies and Kiwis to once again enjoy the best of Fiji, while remaining separate from any other travellers and the general public. 

To be clear, any tourist who comes to Fiji on these terms still won’t be able to move freely throughout the country. All of their movement will be contained within the VIP lanes, starting on the airplane, then from the Nadi Airport onto designated transport to their designated resort or hotel, where they’ll remain throughout their stay.

We’re currently identifying geographically-isolated resorts that are the best fit for the “Bula Bubble”. Fiji Airways, in collaboration with Tourism Fiji and the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport will announce more details in due course. 

We’re also establishing “Pacific Pathways”, starting with all travellers from Tuvalu, Kiribati and Tonga. As the only sovereign nation with a WHO-certified testing lab and the heart of Pacific aviation, Fiji is poised to become a safely-regulated quarantine hub for Pacific countries. 

The Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Tourism, Fiji Airways and our medical experts are now liaising with governments to allow travellers from Tuvalu, Kiribati and Tonga to fly into Fiji. Upon arrival, they must spend 14 days in Fijian government quarantine facilities and then pass a COVID-19 test to enter society, both at their own cost or the cost of their respective government. As our risk assessments evolve, we may expand this arrangement to Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

All Pacific Pathway flights will be run by Fiji Airways with adherence to their new “Travel Ready” protocols –– that means staff will be wearing masks, health and wellness will be managed by newly established on-board personnel, and planes will be regularly sanitised. Passengers will also be health screened prior to boarding flights –– those showing symptoms will not board. Passengers will be screened again on arrival –– those showing symptoms will be isolated and tested for the virus. 

Fiji Airways has published a detailed framework of every precaution they will be taking before boarding, in-flight, and after landing to minimise any risks; that will also be published on the Fijian Government’s website.

Opening Pacific Pathways isn’t simply about tourism or economic benefit. This is about rekindling the bonds between Pacific people, reconnecting friends, reuniting families and giving the wider world a hopeful glimpse of how we can safely meet again, beyond COVID-19. 

Around the world, yachts and pleasure craft are looking to return to Fiji. This is especially true now, with New Zealand currently in the winter season. As those in our hospitality sector know, these ships –– particularly super yachts –– produce immense economic value for Fiji.

Being alone at sea is a verifiable, self-contained quarantine. That means anyone coming by pleasure craft to Fiji, so long as they haven’t interacted with others, are very low-risk, but their economic impact is very high-reward. 

That’s why Fiji will also be establishing safe “blue lanes”, open to those yachts and pleasure craft sailing to Fiji. But the requirements are strict. 

Any boat coming to Fiji will be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis. To start, the only port of entry will be Port Denarau Marina. If this pilot project and if successful, we will consider extending blue lanes to other ports and marinas.

Those eligible to sail to Fiji fall under two categories, both of which will require them to be tested in another country before departing.

-If their journey to Fiji will take 14 days or longer uninterrupted at sea, once they dock in Fiji and show proof of a negative test result, everyone on board will be screened by the Ministry of Health for symptoms. If they’re deemed to be healthy, their yacht will be allowed to freely visit other ports throughout Fiji.

-Alternatively, those with a journey at sea shorter than 14 days will be required to make up the difference in quarantine once they dock in Fiji at their own cost. So, say they spend eight days alone at sea –– they will then be required to pay for six days of quarantine in Fiji, after which they can be cleared by a negative test result, also at their own cost. 

There’s already been a great deal of enthusiasm shown for ideas like this one. In fact, interest has been expressed in using the Pacific for travel, maintenance, and stocking in the build up to the 36th America’s Cup next year, in which Fiji could be used as a safe “parking lot” until the start of the start of cyclone season. 

Cruise ships, meanwhile, are still strictly banned.

We expect New Zealand to soon return to zero-case status and Australia to see more success at containing the spread of the virus. 

I want to stress “contained” as the key word here –– because as the pandemic rages around the world, until we have a globally-available vaccine, no country can truly claim to be truly “COVID-free” so long as it allows its citizens to return to their home country. Meanwhile, we can aim for the next best thing: absolute containment. So long as those entering Fiji pose no risk to the public at large, we will remain COVID-contained –– and we have established a new COVID Risk Mitigation Taskforce to carefully determine which other countries meet the same rigorous standards. 

Travellers from countries which earn this status will be allowed to enter Fiji without spending time in quarantine, so long as they present a negative COVID-19 test result within 48 hours of travelling to Fiji. 

But let me be clear: as of now, under the rigorous criteria established by our medical experts, which considers key testing metrics, we consider Fiji to be the only COVID-contained country in the Pacific. So for the time being, strict quarantine restrictions and testing requirements will remain for travellers from every country entering Fiji. 

If either Australia or New Zealand becomes COVID-contained, the quarantine requirements for travelers from that country will be lifted, and movement can expand beyond these bubbles to everywhere else in Fiji.  

We’re also granting special consideration for Fijian citizens, Fiji residents and Fiji permit holders currently in Australia and New Zealand to return home to Fiji. 

From tomorrow, Monday, the 22nd of June, Fijian citizens and Fiji residents in Australia and New Zealand will be permitted to travel to Fiji only after passing through a net of new safety measures. 

These are the options for returning residents and citizens:

One: Intending travellers must present a certificate from a recognised medical institution certifying their 14 days of quarantine in Australia or New Zealand, along with proof of a negative COVID test result within 48 hours of their departure for Fiji. Once you arrive, you will then spend another seven days in home quarantine in Fiji. 

Or, two: if you haven’t done your quarantine in Australia or New Zealand but have been tested, you can present a negative COVID-test result within 48 hours of travel and, on arrival to Fiji and spend 14 days in a government-designated quarantine centre. You can then go straight home if you are symptom-free. 

Regardless if you’re a returning Fijian citizen or Fiji resident, and regardless of whether you arrive by air or sea, you must download the careFIJI App to enter the country. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can buy one upon landing at Nadi airport for as little as $100. My advice is simple: if you come to Fiji, bring a smartphone or buy a smartphone and download careFIJI. 

Our COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Taskforce will also be considering special requests that promise immense economic value. We’re talking about projects that are exceptionally risk-free, but also exceptionally high-reward.

So, say you’re a billionaire looking to fly your own jet, rent your own island, and invest millions of dollars in Fiji in the process –– if you’ve taken all the necessary precautions requested by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and borne all associated costs, you may have a new home to escape the pandemic in paradise. 

In recent years, we’ve established Fiji as something of a “Hollywood of the Pacific”, with a film and television industry bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity, and invaluable exposure to the world. Seeing Fiji’s pristine beaches on shows like Survivor or Love Island can be more powerful than any advertisement.  

When COVID-19 forced the industry to shut, it wasn’t just a blow to the millions of viewers around the world who await these hit shows in anxious anticipation –– it was a blow to the hundreds of Fijians who work as crew on set, and the communities that production companies have forged loving relationships with over the years. 

But as we return to a “new normal”, we’re also rekindling hope for Fiji’s vital film and television industry. We’ll be taking similar steps to New Zealand, who has moved to safely resume production of the sequel to Avatar.

Again, this will be done in a completely safe and controlled manner. Cast and crew won’t even be allowed to board their plane without proof of a negative COVID-19 test, and will be screened for symptoms both before boarding and upon landing. They’ll then be entered into government-designated quarantine –– whether that’s a preapproved hotel or a remote isolated island –– for the mandatory 14-day period.

Absolutely all quarantine and testing costs will be borne by the production company.

Friends, Fiji –– and the Pacific as a whole –– is in a coveted position at a consequential moment in history. As a region, we are a pocket of hope in a world devastated by this pandemic. Pacific Islands in particular have the opportunity to set the bar in safely navigating the international community through COVID-19. We have earned the right to be seen on equal footing with our larger regional neighbours. 

Australia is working diligently to take control of the virus, while New Zealand is already extremely close to being COVID-contained. Soon, we’ll have the chance to make the Pacific’s future an inclusive one, defined by revived relationships and safe avenues of economic growth, or one that looks inwards, and deepens inequality. 

The eyes of the world are on us. They are on the Pacific; they are on New Zealand; they are on Australia. And they are on the example we set, together, in charting these unknown waters. 

Fiji is leading in building a COVID-safe economic recovery. But that effort depends on every Fijian watching today, along with everyone they know doing their bit. 

By now, you should already have the careFIJI App downloaded onto your phone. If not, download it now. Help us get people back in their jobs, help us restore some measure of normalcy to our lives, help our doctors do their jobs at keeping us safe, and help get Fiji –– and the Fijian economy –– on the road to recovery.  

I’d like to end by extending perhaps the most deserved “vinaka vakalevu” in Fiji’s history to our healthcare heroes. 

Vinaka to our contact tracing team, our doctors, nurses, medical staff, and everyone working overtime at the Ministry of Health and Medical Services. 

Vinaka to our firefighters who have sanitised buildings, and to our first responders who balanced responding to both COVID-19 and Cyclone Harold.

Vinaka to our disciplined forces, to RFMF for helping us rapidly conduct contact tracing, and to the Police Force for enforcing curfew hours and other directives we put in place to keep Fijians safe and healthy.  

Vinaka to our Ministry of Economy team, who quickly put together a COVID-response budget just one week after our first case, and to those at the ministries of Economy, Commerce, Trade, Tourism, Transport and Health and Medical Services –– who alongside our private sector partners –– helped to establish our COVID-Safe Economic Recovery framework. 

Vinaka to our careFIJI app development team from digitalFIJI, who have played a central role in bringing our containment efforts into the future.

Vinaka to leaders of our various private sector partners, including the financial institutions who have worked with the  Reserve Bank of Fiji and the Fijian Government, for showing that we can get through any hardship by working together.  

Vinaka to every Fijian of every age who visited our fever clinics, washed their hands, practiced physical distancing, and demonstrated the virtues of patience and responsibility in combating this deadly disease. 

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all you’ve done, and will continue to do, to protect Fijian families from this pandemic. 

I ask that every Fijian honour their hard work and sacrifice by downloading careFIJI, by continuing to practice the healthy habits that have been at the core of our success, and to keep each other responsible as we adapt to this new normal. 

Vinaka vakalevu, thank you, and God bless Fiji.

Statement by the Hon. Prime Minister J.V. Bainimarama on COVID-19 – Friday, 15 May 2020

Bula vinaka. 
 
Back on the 18th of April, we clinically confirmed our 18th case of COVID-19. This was in the midst of our response to the devastation of severe Cyclone Harold, which had ripped across our islands the week prior, levelling homes and flooding communities.
 
With two national disasters threatening the lives of Fijians at once, Fiji was faced with a dilemma the likes of which we’d never seen. We declared two simultaneous States of Natural Disaster, kicking off a month-long, whole-of-government campaign to assist those in the path of the storm’s wrath without compromising any of our life-saving progress in our war against the coronavirus.
 
By adapting our cyclone response to the reality of COVID-19, we’ve saved lives on the frontlines of both existential threats. Even as Fijians evacuated their communities and authorities dispatched to badly-hit regions during TC Harold, not a single case of coronavirus was spread as a result of the storm. And this week, following these achievements, these States of Natural Disaster have not been extended. 
 
If no new cases are recorded tomorrow, that will mark four full weeks without a new case of COVID-19. The experts tell us those 28 days represent two full incubation periods for the coronavirus. That means that over this period, if the virus was passed to any close contacts of our existing patients, our tests would confirm it. Even as we’ve continued to conduct over 1,000 more tests over these four weeks, every morning, every one of those tests has come back negative. On top of that victory, we’re also confirming our 15th full recovery of the virus, meaning only three active cases remain. 
 
Fiji is now well on our way to eliminating COVID-19 entirely, and we’re one of the few nations on Earth who can make that claim. Our progress has come not from fortune, but through foresight; every step taken was swift, every decision made was decisive, and every success we’ve recorded has been well-earned. 
 
But much as this feels like a moment of celebration –– as it should –– the end of these declarations does not mean Fiji is entirely rid of this virus. We still have Fijians in government funded quarantine facilities who could yet develop the disease. As tight as our safety nets may be –– there is always a chance that an asymptomatic case has slipped through undetected. We have no evidence to suggest this is the case, but it is still a risk we must consider, because all it takes is one case, one super-spreader, to provoke a Fijian epidemic of COVID-19. 
 
From the beginning, we’ve armed ourselves with only the best available medical information. As the medical community’s knowledge of this virus has evolved, so has our response. It would be easy for me to stand here today and declare total victory over this virus. It would be easy to say this war has been completely won and roll-back every health protection directive in one fell-swoop. But we can never settle for “easy” with a virus this devastating and unpredictable. We have no choice but to continue treating this invisible enemy with deadly seriousness. 
 
As I speak, China is already seeing a second wave of infections and Europe is bracing for the same. We cannot risk a second wave of Fijian infections; that is why, for the time being, all of our health protection directives will remain in full effect. 
 
The nationwide curfew will remain in effect from 10 pm until 5 am every day. Social gatherings must be limited to 20 people or fewer. Gyms, nightclubs, cinemas and swimming pools will remain closed, as will houses of worship. Contact sports are still not allowed to be played. Our schools will remain closed as well until the 12th of June 2020.  Existing quarantine protocols will remain in place, including for Fijians returning overseas. These repatriating Fijians will immediately enter 14 days of quarantine in government funded facilities. At the end of the 14 day period, if they test negative for the virus, they can complete their remaining 14 days of self-quarantine at home.
 
In the coming weeks, we will finalise our game plan for a gradual scale-back of some of these measures. But I want to be crystal clear with every person watching: No matter how confident we are that this virus has been defeated, our most critical restrictions aren’t going anywhere. The good habits that we’ve picked up over the past few months –– physical distancing, regular handwashing, staying home or wearing face masks when we’re sick, not sharing takis and bilos, and keeping a clean working environment –– must become new ways of Fijian life. We cannot risk falling back into life-risking bad habits. To keep Fiji healthy, and to prevent a dangerous second wave of the virus, these new healthy habits must stick. 
 
And even as we explore ways we can safely scale back restrictions, we’re also stepping up our virus containment. We’ve already health screened over 800,000 Fijians through the largest healthcare mobilisation campaign in Fijian history, in the coming weeks we will massively step-up testing as well. We are also actively looking at new and innovative ways to prevent a resurgence of the disease. 
 
Under the digitalFIJI initiative, a mobile app called “careFIJI” has been developed that will harness our phones’ Bluetooth technology to make any future contact tracing faster, easier, and more effective. And it will do so all while protecting the privacy of the user.
 
If enough Fijians use careFIJI, we’ll be able to avoid large-scale lockdowns entirely. More importantly, widespread adoption of careFIJI will help save lives, bring back jobs, and increase confidence among our tourism and trading partners.
 
This app comes from the very same technology that has been widely adopted by millions of Singaporeans and Australians in their own fights to contain the virus –– meaning that its success will help pave the way to safely re-opening our borders to visitors. When that day comes, tourists will be able to download careFIJI upon landing, giving them the confidence that Fiji has COVID-19 firmly under control.
 
We’re aiming to launch a pilot programme of the app as soon as we get approval from the Android PlayStore and Apple AppStore. We need you –– every Fijian listening to this address –– to download this app when it’s available, just as we need you to continue to adhere to every one of our life-saving directives –– because your government cannot win this war alone. Your government cannot make you wash your hands. Your government cannot force you to bring your own bilos to kava sessions. Your government cannot inspect inside your homes to ensure they are clean. We will continue to give advice and directives led by the best available science, but ultimately, it’s up to you to stop the spread. Each of you must choose to make Fiji COVID-free. 
 
Much of the rest of the world is still in the grips of widespread viral outbreaks, meaning the coronavirus-fuelled collapse of the world economy will likely get worse before it begins to relent. Like most other nations Fiji is deeply connected with the rest of the world, and like most other economies, our businesses, industries and citizens have been affected. Early next week, the Minister for Economy will announce the second round of COVID-19 unemployment benefits to be paid out –– in partnership with FNPF –– to aid those Fijians whose employers have been severely impacted by this crisis. We are also closely monitoring and working with business in various sectors and financial institutions to provide targeted support. 
 
The coronavirus is the challenge of our generation. If our campaign presses onwards to total victory, when the history books recount the difficulty of this period, they will tell of how Fijians led the way in beating this virus for good. And around the world, as the larger war against this virus rages on, I hope our friends and partners can take comfort from what’s been achieved in Fiji. The right path isn’t always the easy one. But our success has shown that if you respect the science and act decisively, this virus can be beaten. Contact tracing saves lives. Stopping mass gatherings saves lives. Staying home saves lives. Changing behaviour, from how we shop, to how we travel, to how often we wash our hands, all saves lives. Entering patients into quarantine and isolation may not always be easy, but it saves lives as well. And if we want the world to rid itself of this virus, I urge leaders, businesses, and ordinary people to stay the course, do what must be done to avoid needless death and suffering –– and instead, set Fiji, and the rest of the global community on the course to health and economic recovery. 
 
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you and God bless you all. 

Statement by the Hon. Prime Minister, J.V. Bainimarama on TC Harold and COVID-19 Measures – Friday, 24 April 2020

Bula Vinaka. 

Since my last update on Fiji’s recovery from Cyclone Harold and COVID-19, we’ve made great progress in both fronts.

Assistance has made its way to the hardest-hit areas across Fiji, with thousands of food ration packs and other supplies being delivered to even the most remote corners of the country. 

And our on-the-ground assessment of TC Harold’s devastation is showing just how hard-hit some of these communities and islands are. NDMO’s latest survey now shows that 635 homes across the country were destroyed by the storm, with over 2,100 suffering damage. 

Under our Rural Housing Assistance programme, the Ministry of Housing and Community Development is working to provide relief to high-need households as quickly as possible. As has been the case in the wake of previous cyclones, we’ll be subsidising the cost of government-procured building materials for eligible households –– those making less than $15,000 a year -– on a one-third, two-thirds basis.

Alternately, those applying for assistance can cover the cost of all building materials, but pay more affordable rates thanks to government bulk-buying, and then have those discounted materials delivered to them with all shipping costs covered –– even in our most remote maritime communities. Trees felled by the cyclone are also being repurposed into timber that will be provided free-of-charge for impacted homes by the Ministry of Forestry.

For anyone benefiting from this programme who cannot secure carpenters of their own, the Ministry of Housing and Community Development’s carpentry team –– assisted by the Public Rental Board –– will be provided free of charge for repairs and reconstruction. They will also be assisting with building plans to ensure the new homes are cyclone-resilient, and they’ll also be carrying out site inspections to keep everything up to standard.

But as we rebuild from this storm, we are seeing a rise in illnesses that have the potential to prove deadlier than the storm itself –– those that thrive in the wet environments left behind by tropical cyclones. That’s why the Ministry of Health is now launching a door-to-door campaign to combat LTDD: Leptospirosis, Typhoid, Dengue, and Diarrhea. 

So while coronavirus will dominate headlines, we also need to stay alert of these other ailments, as they can also kill. But unlike COVID-19, we’ve dealt with these challenges before –– and experience has taught us that public cooperation is critical to keeping Fijians healthy. That’s why, if an official from the Ministry of Health visits your door to check for symptoms, we need to remain just as diligent as we have during our nationwide COVID screening efforts. 

This said, coronavirus is still public enemy number one, and I’m sure it’s what is on the top of all of your minds today. Since this Monday, the 20th of April, we’ve tested 114 more samples for COVID-19, and all have returned negative –– meaning that again, we have zero new cases to report. Our health screening effort in Ba is progressing extremely well. Nationwide, we’ve restocked with thousands of COVID-19 tests –– a step critical to boosting confidence in the success of our containment efforts. 

Since our first cases were confirmed in Fiji, the first question I’ve asked our health team in our morning COVID-19 briefings has been the same: “How are our patients?” And for weeks, the answer has remained the same –– “they are in stable condition”. While this was always welcome news, it still left me, and all Fijians, anxious for their wellbeing. 

Only in the past few days have our patients begun finally testing negative for the virus. Today, I’m grateful to announce that 10 of our 18 patients have made full recoveries from the virus. So now, there are eight active cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Fiji –– meaning that, for the first time, more Fijians have recovered than are currently still living with the virus. 

Our nation has prayed for these recoveries, our healthcare heroes have provided the weeks of care-giving it’s taken to heal these Fijians, and –– given the vast unknowns surrounding coronavirus –– we are all grateful to see them cleared to leave isolation. I applaud every Fijian responsible for aiding these recoveries and delivering us this beacon of hope. 

But as relieved as we all are, we must still reckon with some sobering realities. 

No confirmed case of coronavirus in Fiji has been in a person over the age of 65. Most of our patients have had no underlying health conditions. We know that these factors –– age and health –– are directly linked to a patient’s chances of survival. 

My point is, in Fiji, so far we have been blessed by demographics, and more vulnerable Fijians have been spared. But if we lull ourselves into complacency, that could all too tragically change. Across the world, over 186,000 lives have been lost to this virus. Every day, tens of thousands more add to the total. We cannot allow Fiji to fall victim to the same fate.

We’ve all seen a sevens side –– after a comfortable half-time lead –– go on to lose the game because they got cocky, let their guard down, and failed to see victory through to its end. Well, the stakes of this virus are far higher than a rugby match –– they are life or death. I’ve said many times before: We are at war with COVID-19. We must stay vigilant. We must stay disciplined. We must keep ourselves one step ahead of this killer virus.

If we keep the course, we will be able to confidently rank ourselves among the nations leading the world in stomping out coronavirus. Our success so far leaves us reason for cautious optimism. We have isolated every close contact of every case of the virus in our country –– a world-leading feat. Of the over 900 samples we’ve tested in Fiji –– only two per cent have returned positive, compared from up to 19% or even higher in harder-hit countries. 

Every decision we have made has been informed by the best available science and the direction of our medical experts –– and our adherence to health advice will continue to guide every step we take. Operating with caution and armed with good information, we have identified a few safe ways we can return some measure of normalcy to our society. 

But it’s important we match any relaxation of health protection directives with greater diligence in our day to day lives. That is why I am declaring this weekend as Fiji’s Weekend of Readiness and Responsibility. Through the weekend, we need to see Fijians take greater ownership over our containment measures. As we see that happen, we plan to gradually scale back a handful of our health protection measures. 

From the evening of Saturday the 25th of April, which is tomorrow, the nationwide curfew will begin at 10pm and go until 5am. From Sunday the 26th of April we will resume all passenger inter-island travel, by air and sea. And from Monday, the 27th of April, we will allow social gatherings of 20 people or fewer. 

Nightclubs, swimming pools, cinemas, and gyms will all continue to remain closed. Houses of worship, as well, will remain closed until further notice. Our schools will remain closed as well until the 12th of June 2020. 

Our Weekend of Readiness and Responsibility starts with our LTDD campaign. Every Fijian should spend this weekend tracking down breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Empty out containers, tyres or rubbish that hold water. And if medical teams conduct screenings in your area, cooperate. 

From Sunday morning, as inter-island travel resumes, all transportation vehicles, whether that’s taxis, mini-buses,  buses, boats or planes, are encouraged to provide hand sanitiser to passengers upon boarding, and members of the public are encouraged to wear masks while travelling. 

Through the weekend, all of our advice remains in effect. Physical distancing of two metres should be maintained at all times. Do not share cigarettes, or takis or bilos during grog sessions. Limit unnecessary person-to-person contact as much as humanly possible. 

And, as health screening efforts continue across the country, all Fijians should cooperate with our medical teams for the few easy minutes it takes to be screened –– whether that’s for LTTD or COVID-19. 

Through the weekend, our coronavirus testing will press ahead. If even one new case is detected, our most stringent health protection measures will snap right back into place. 

As we see some of our restrictions lifted, it’s vital the Fijian public go about their lives responsibly, in ways that do not compromise the practice of physical distancing and put Fijian lives at risk. If we do, I’m confident we can welcome back these freedoms without giving ground in the campaign against this virus. 

Vinaka vakalevu. God bless you all. 

ADVISORY: Fiji Airways Flight from Narita-Nadi – Saturday, 25 April 2020

Fiji Airways has confirmed that there will be a flight from Narita to Nadi on Saturday, 25 April 2020. Interested individuals can book tickets online at www.fijiairways.com or by calling the airline’s Reservation Center on +679 672 0888 or +679 330 4388.

Please note that individuals who are Fijian Passport holders, Fijian Citizenship Certificate holders and/or Fijian Residential Certificate holders, will only be considered for this flight.

Furthermore, as a precautionary measure in-light of COVID-19 and as per the directives of the Fijian Government, all travelers entering Fiji will be required to undertake compulsory self-quarantine of 28 days upon arrival.

Statement by the Hon. Prime Minister J.V. Bainimarama on Latest COVID-19 Case – Monday, 20 April 2020

Bula Vinaka. 

It’s now been nearly two weeks since Cyclone Harold swept over Fiji.  As lines of communication have been re-established, our aid ships have made their way to our outer islands, and our response teams have surveyed damage, the scale of the devastation is becoming more clear. 

Our agricultural sector saw over 27 million dollars of damages from the immense levels of rain and flooding throughout Fiji. More than 500 homes were destroyed, with many hundreds more suffering damage. FRA’s infrastructure network, including our roading and jetties, took a 22-million-dollar hit. Overall, more than 180,000 Fijians saw their homes, their lives and livelihoods suffer from the brunt of Harold.

But as we made clear from the start, help is on the way for affected Fijians. For many, that help has already arrived, with food rations being delivered and clean-up commenced in some of our hardest-hit areas. Electricity and water supply has been restored for most of the country. As we pick up the pieces from Harold’s wrath, we can again devote ourselves to an enemy that will last far longer than any storm –– COVID-19.  

I want to begin today by honouring the life of Mr Morotikei Mainilala, a Turaga-ni-Koro serving in Baleyaganiga Village on Vanua Levu. The police have completed their investigation of Mr Mainlala’s passing. It appears he tried to break up a public gathering –– a drinking party –– before he was brutally killed. Those suspected of involvement have been charged. 

Our ban on social gatherings exists to stop the sort of person-to-person contact that spreads the deadly coronavirus. It’s clear Mr Mainilala knew that –– and it’s why he strove to prevent his fellow Fijians from violating our health protection measures. I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, his six children, and his community. They, and all of Fiji, have lost a responsible leader and a brave Fijian.

From Friday through today, we have tested 123 samples for the coronavirus. One test returned what we call a “soft positive” result –– meaning we couldn’t say with certainty whether this sample was positive for COVID-19. After further testing and consultations with our reference lab in Melbourne, they found that these results indicate this sample came from someone in the final stages of recovery from coronavirus. 

This, combined with a travel history from the United States last month, was enough for us to call this case “highly likely” –– and in my book, when Fijian lives are at stake, that means “positive”. So clinically, we have officially confirmed this patient –– a 51-year-old woman in Ba –– as our 18th case of COVID-19.

The patient returned from the United States on the 22nd of March. After completing 14 days of home quarantine, she was cleared. Only later did she develop COVID-like symptoms. She was then  tested, giving us the soft positive result. The results of her test make it likely this patient has been carrying COVID-19 for weeks. Luckily, our contact tracing –– which began as soon as she was first tested on the 18th of April –– identifies her as a low-risk transmitter. 

This patient shares a home with three others –– all three have tested negative for the virus. Regardless, they have all been placed in isolation. We’ve traced and identified her other casual contacts; they have all been entered into compulsory home quarantine. 

Because of the low-risk nature of this patient spreading the virus, and our ability to quickly test and contain her few close contacts, we will not be locking down Ba Town. However, our mobile teams will be conducting a large-scale screening of the entire province. As with Lautoka and Suva, public cooperation is vital to this effort –– if we don’t see sufficient numbers from these screenings, Ba will risk a total lockdown. 

We’re also introducing new health protection measures nationwide. This virus is deadliest in already-ill patients –– that’s why it’s vital we keep coronavirus away from patients in hospital. Only two visitors a day will be allowed to see a patient, and the visitation window will only be one hour. Visitors will enter facilities one at a time and will need to be health-checked prior to entry. Our standing ban on visitations to isolation wards and facilities will continue. We’ll also be introducing compulsory testing for Fijians returning from overseas in government-funded quarantine after 14 days –– if they test negative after the critical 14-day incubation period, they will be able to spend the remaining 14 days of their quarantine at home. 

This latest case goes to show: This virus is still out there in our communities. Our 18th case has been present in Fiji for almost a month –– while her transmission risk is low, she was certainly not the only unconfirmed coronavirus case in the country. This is a complex and contagious virus, and –– no matter the strength of our safety nets –– cases can slip through the cracks, as we’ve in other countries, especially individuals who never show symptoms. 

This virus is proving as stealthy as it is unpredictable, but it can be beaten. Not by some magic cure –– but by keeping to the simple strategy of physical distancing. The difference of two metres of physical distance between us means the difference between victory and defeat in this campaign. It means the difference between life and death for vulnerable Fijians. 

This weekend, aside from dozens more arrests, we’ve received reports across the country of blatant violations of our physical distancing directives. Too many Fijians are still behaving as if the virus isn’t among us. Thank God, there are no deaths due to the virus in Fiji. But if people keep crowding in public places, gathering socially, or otherwise acting like these are normal times, there’s no question, we will lose lives. The possibility of a 24-hour curfew is not off the table –– the power to avoid that drastic alternative rests with every Fijian watching, listening to or reading this address. So, please, do the right thing today, and spare us suffering down the road.

All of us need to seize ownership over our health and by taking responsibility for the laws designed to keep this virus at bay. Don’t push the burden of recovery entirely on the shoulders of our doctors, nurses, and disciplined forces –– they deserve far better than anyone’s apathy or ambivalence. 

Supermarkets, retailers, and shops should have hand sanitiser available and prominent signage instructing physical distancing. Children should not be out and about –– they must stay home, as should the elderly. Social gatherings are banned, and the 8pm to 5am curfew remains in effect. And all of us should stay in our homes as much as possible. If you see someone violating our directives, do not stay silent –– pick up the phone and call number 158 or the dial the police.

I’d like to end my brief today with some good news. Three Fijians diagnosed with the virus have made full recoveries from the coronavirus. That means these Fijians have tested negative for the virus twice, with over 24 hours in between tests. We also have several individuals in isolation who –– after over 30 days –– have not tested positive for the virus. Our recovered patients, along with those who have continually tested negative, will be released. Out of an abundance of caution, they will remain under supervised home quarantine for 14 days. Our other 15 patients living with COVID-19 all remain in stable condition. The Minister for Health is here today to share the specifics. 

We should celebrate these recoveries. But we should do so knowing Fiji’s recovery from this virus is still months’ away at best. We can get there –– we will get there –– day by day, test by test, and recovery by recovery. I know it’s not always easy. It’s not easy to keep children at home. It’s not easy to manage shopping, care-giving and bread-winning, while also adhering to all of our directives. It’s not easy to go without seeing friends and family for social gatherings. But these directives save lives. I assure you, when our victory over this virus arrives, every measure of our diligence –– and every short-term sacrifice –– will have been well worth it. 

Thank you. God bless you all. 

STATEMENT FROM THE FIJIAN GOVERNMENT – FRIDAY, 17 APRIL 2020

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has announced a cabinet reshuffle effective from this evening.
 
The Prime Minister will add the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to his existing portfolios.
 
The Honourable Inia Seruiratu will now serve as the Minister for Rural and Maritime Development and the Minister for Disaster Management. He will continue to lead the Ministry of Defence and National Security, which has now been re-named to the Ministry of Defence, National Security and Policing.
 
The Honourable Jone Usamate will continue to serve as the Minister for Infrastructure and Meteorological Services and will now also serve as the Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources.
 
The Honourable Faiyaz Koya will be the Minister for Commerce, Trade and Tourism, formerly known as the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism. He will also serve as the Minister for Transport.
 
The Honourable Premila Kumar will continue to serve as the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Housing and Community Development.
 
The Honourable Dr Mahendra Reddy will continue to serve as the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Waterways and Environment.
 
Honourable Vijay Nath and Honourable Jale Sigarara will serve as the assistant ministers for Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management.
 
Honourable Viam Pillay will serve as the Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment.

Statement by the Hon. Prime Minister J.V. Bainimarama on COVID 19, Thursday 16 April 2020

Bula Vinaka. 
 
I want to start the briefing today with the latest on our response to the devastation of Cyclone Harold. After being thoroughly health screened, our disaster officials have arrived with food, shelter kits, and medical supplies to Vatulele, Kadavu, Beqa, Yanuca and Southern Lau, we’ve shipped water to areas that need it as well. Deployments to the Yasawa and Mamanuca groups will depart this evening. Our evacuees are gradually returning home, but those who need to stay will continue to be fed and looked after. The Director NDMO is here with me to take any questions relating to our Cyclone Harold response.
 
We remain in a state of natural disaster from Cyclone Harold. Today, we are declaring another state of natural disaster in response to the coronavirus threat, because it is clear we need to bring every resource in government to bear to take on the crises of contagion and climate change before us. 
Our coronavirus containment remains focused on our three high-risk locales: The Nabua settlement in Suva, the quarantine facilities in Nadi, and the Soasoa settlement and other areas in the North. 
 
Our first 16 patients living with coronavirus are all in stable condition. Yesterday, after testing ten samples we recorded no new positive cases of coronavirus. Today, however, one of our 25 tested samples returned positive –– that of a 21-year-old man in Vanua Levu. This gentleman is a relative and travelling companion of case nine; they travelled together from India to Singapore and on to Fiji.
 
Since his return to Fiji, this young man has not shown a single symptom of the virus. You will recall our original case definition for virus testing required that patients display symptoms. Upon returning to the country from overseas, this young man was in self-quarantine for two full weeks, up until the 5th of April. Free of any symptoms throughout the virus’s known two-week incubation period, by all appearances, he was in the clear.
 
But as experts have unveiled more about the insidious nature of this virus, and our understanding of the disease has evolved, the way we define and contain cases must evolve as well. From this week, we’ve widened our testing to all close contacts of all our confirmed cases, regardless of whether they are displaying symptoms. That’s how we identified, tested and confirmed this gentleman as our 17th case. He was immediately entered into isolation upon testing positive today where he is in stable condition. His close contacts have been entered into separate isolation facilities. 
 
This all goes to show that the knowns of this virus pale in comparison to the unknowns. What we do know is this: physical distancing is the only strategy that stops this virus. The disease cannot move if its carrier doesn’t –– so while there is no medical cure, time and distance are two sure-fire ways to put a stop to its transmission.
 
But as we have seen, the time that is needed to ensure it cannot be spread can be far longer than the world first thought. And it’s why we are now extending the quarantine period to a full 28 days, both for anyone who is newly-quarantined and to those who currently are waiting out their initial 14-day period. So, for example, if you are on day seven of your quarantine, you will remain in quarantine for 21 more days. Anyone whose quarantine has ended will not go back into quarantine, but they will continue to be monitored by the Ministry of Health until they meet the full 28-day threshold. 
 
Our contact tracing stemming from this latest case has revealed the need for additional lockdowns on Vanua Levu. The Vunicagi Settlement between Nabowalu and Labasa will be locked down for the next 28 days. The settlement lies along a short stretch of vital highway which vehicles will still be allowed to traverse under 24/7 police monitoring, as no alternate routes into Labasa exist. However, no passengers will be allowed to disembark or embark: No one in and no one out. 
 
Our lockdown of the Soasoa settlement as well will be extended another 14 days, in line with our 28-day quarantine policy. Given the continued risk of transmission on Vanua Levu, our ban on inter-island travel by air and sea will remain in effect. 
 
Meanwhile, there is good news to report in Suva. Around 180,000 Fijians in the Suva confined have been screened by our mobile teams and at our fever clinics –– well beyond our target of 150,000, and an impressive two-thirds of the total population of our largest urban hub. Today, that total will likely surpass 230,000, meaning that when combined with previous screenings in Lautoka, over 280,000 Fijians have been screened. 
 
This represents the most ambitious public health screening campaign in Fijian history. That success is shared by our healthcare heroes, our disciplined forces and the thousands of Fijians who stepped up and got themselves screened. We’ve also successfully identified and quarantined all of the close contacts of our Suva COVID-19 cases –– these Fijians will remain in quarantine for 28 days. 
 
We know the triumph of a single battle doesn’t assure our victory against this virus. We know we’re still in for long and difficult months ahead. But winning these small battles day after day after day is what will win us the war. We’ll need to see similar successes replicated many times over in the months to come as we expand large-scale screening to Nadi, Ba, Tavua, Rakiraki, Labasa, Savusavu, Sigatoka and Korovou.
 
The progress of our screening and contact tracing has kept us on track to lift the lockdown of the Suva confined area by 5am tomorrow. The Nabua settlement however –– the site of two of our coronavirus cases –– is still a high-risk region. Given how long this virus has proven it can stay dormant, the Nabua settlement  will remain locked down for an additional 14 days. 
 
I want to be crystal clear with everyone watching: Even though the Suva lockdown is lifting, every other life-saving directive in place will remain in place. The nationwide curfew remains in effect. Nightclubs stay closed. Gyms stay closed. Cinemas stay closed. Pools stay closed. Public gatherings are not permitted. Physical distancing of two metres from all others should be maintained at all times. The end of the lockdown is not cause for celebration. It is not a reason to have large grog sessions or drinking parties. It is not a justification to stay out past 8pm. It is not an excuse to leave your homes for no good reason. 
 
In the West, Fijians who have returned from overseas remain under closely supervised quarantine. One flight is arriving tomorrow from Auckland –– every passenger aboard will head straight to one of these facilities. As I said earlier, the period of quarantine is now 28 days. If you’ve already been released from quarantine after returning from overseas, prepare for a visit from health officials. 
 
Schools were scheduled to open next week Monday. Instead, schools will not open until the 15th of June, an extension that recognises that this virus will be part of our lives for the foreseeable future, and we must plan accordingly. The date schools reopen is subject to change based on the situation on the ground at the time. The Minister for Education joins me today to talk about how her ministry will continue to ensure that learning materials are distributed for at-home schooling, technology will be impactfully utilised, teachers and parents will be engaged and how students can utilise this as an opportunity for upskilling and professional development.  
 
So, even though the Suva lockdown will be lifted tomorrow morning at 5am, I want today’s main takeaway to be that every other health protection measure remains in effect and will be enforced. Every would-be law-breaker can bet that they will be arrested and they will be charged if they flout any of these measures. 
 
The coronavirus is the most complex and devastating global crisis of our lifetimes. We should all respect how vital our health protection measures are to the wellbeing of every Fijian. We need every Fijian behind them. Because as we’ve seen from the beginning, we are stronger together. And only together can the war against this virus be won. 
 
Thank you. God bless you all, and God bless Fiji.

Statement by the Hon. Prime Minister J.V. Bainimarama on COVID-19, Friday, 10 April 2020

Bula Vinaka. I wish every Fijian a very Happy Easter! 
 
Any other year my wife, children and grandchildren would be joining thousands of other Fijians families at church services, planning parties and spending intimate time with friends and loved ones –– but we all know this isn’t any other year. 
 
With the coronavirus still at our shores and Cyclone Harold’s recent devastation –– the need for solidarity with our healthcare heroes, utility workers and disciplined forces has never been greater. So, this long weekend, let us all honour the sacrifices they bravely make every day, by staying home, keeping our children home and keeping the elderly at home. 
 
Through this week we went to incredible lengths to ensure that we did not lose an inch of ground in our war against coronavirus due to Cyclone Harold. Because unlike the cyclone, the virus won’t disappear in a day. Our coronavirus containment measures –– which depend heavily on testing, tracing, and isolating new cases –– are all in full-swing. 
 
After testing another 32 samples, today, we received confirmation of another COVID-positive case that we had been anticipating: the 9-year-old granddaughter of the gentleman in Labasa who traveled from India.
 
This young girl lived in the Soasoa settlement. She has been in isolation since the 4th of April. While she wasn’t showing any symptoms, we knew she had a high risk of being infected given her close contact with her grandfather. We had her tested and she was confirmed positive late this morning. 
 
This diagnosis takes Fiji’s case total to 16. But given the length of time this young girl spent in isolation, and the fact that she wasn’t showing symptoms, her risk of infecting others is extremely low. 
 
This is the sixth confirmed case stemming from the gentleman in Labasa –– and it once again goes to show how long and dangerous a chain of transmission can grow if our public health directives are blatantly ignored. 
 
So as Fijians gather with your own families this holiday weekend, I want each of you to take a moment to appreciate how much it means to have them in your life –– and how much we sometimes take that for granted. Pledge to protect them by changing your own behaviour in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
 
Ask yourself: If I could prevent my grandparent from suffering a stroke by washing my hands, would I? If I could prevent my child from contracting cancer by staying home, would I? If I could stave off heart disease in my spouse by physically distancing, would I? The answer is obvious. Treat coronavirus no differently –– it is just as serious as any other killer, but unlike some other diseases, the power to fight it is in your own hands. 
 
So please, going forward, treat COVID-19 with the seriousness it deserves. Protect your family, do what the authorities tell you to do –– help us break every chain of transmission in Fiji. 
 
Thank you. 

Statement by Hon. Prime Minister Bainimarama on New COVID-19 Cases in Fiji, Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Bula vinaka. 
 
This morning, after testing another 25 samples overnight at our molecular lab, we have confirmed a single new case of COVID-19 in Fiji. 
 
Our newly-confirmed case of coronavirus is the husband of an existing patient from Lautoka –– the Zumba classmate of patient number one. This was a case we have expected for some time and, thankfully, this 33-year-old gentleman did not develop any symptoms until after he was safely in isolation and posed no risk to the public. This is the sixth confirmed transmission that can be traced back to our first case.
 
There are now 15 cases of COVID-19 in Fiji. All of our patients remain in stable condition. 
 
You’ll recall the Fijian national who our fever-screening team discovered had travelled from Uruguay and smuggled his way into Lautoka. His travel history, paired with a fever and other symptoms, raised serious red flags, and jeopardised the lifting of restrictions in some areas of Lautoka –– for those reasons we locked down the Kashmir area in Lautoka where he resided. 
 
Despite his irresponsible behavior, which will still be investigated, he was among the 24 tests last night that came back negative –– meaning all of the Lautoka confined area now has the freedom to move into and out of the area, including the Kashmir area. 
 
But the lifting of the lockdown does not mean life is going back to normal; it’s not cause for celebration or an excuse to play loose with the rules. The 8pm to 5am nationwide curfew applies everywhere. The ban on all social gatherings applies everywhere. The requirement to keep a safe distance of two metres applies everywhere. Our Police officers are stepping up surveillance in Lautoka from today to make sure no one takes this as an opportunity to skirt any of our directives. 
 
It was the people of Lautoka who helped make our latest fever-screening effort so effective, and it is those same people who we will depend on to continue to act responsibly and keep the area safe and healthy. So, if you see any rule-breaking, speak up. If you feel symptoms, visit a fever clinic or call 158. 
 
Given this virus struck Fiji in cyclone season, we knew from the start we had to weather-proof our COVID-19 containment efforts to the very real possibility of a severe storm striking Fiji. Thank God we have, as Cyclone Harold –– a category five cyclone currently rivaling the strength of TC Winston –– is currently wreaking havoc on our Pacific brothers and sisters in Vanuatu. Tomorrow, the cyclone will enter Fijian waters, and we can expect strong winds and heavy rains in the Yasawa and Mamanuca groups, Viti Levu, Kadavu, the Lomaiviti Group and the Southern Lau Group. 
 
If any areas under lockdown see serious flooding and need to be evacuated, we have contingency plans in place to prevent any mixing between evacuees and Fijians who are close contacts of existing COVID-positive patients –– so you should have no hesitation in evacuating as normal if flooding poses a risk. All evacuation centres will also be sanitised, and regularly monitored to ensure that they are not filled beyond capacity.
 
Through this storm, I want to again stress that the directives given by our authorities are not voluntary. They are not suggestions. They are orders that must be followed, for your safety and the safety of those around you.
 
Cyclones can kill, and so can coronavirus. So, as we combat these two life-threatening crises, it’s vital that every Fijian do exactly what they are told to do by authorities. Stay away from floodwaters. If you’ve been directed to evacuate, please do so while the sun is out. If you have notbeen told to move, do the right thing and stay put at home. 
 
Over the past few days, as news has emerged of those who have violated the rules meant to keep us safe, I’ve shared the anger and frustration of many Fijians. But I don’t want any of us to lose sight of the remarkable stories of solidarity that have emerged from this crisis. 
 
This past Saturday, our national carrier, Fiji Airways, organised a charter flight on board an A350 which safely carried 300 missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Nadi to Utah in the United States. Before departing for the U.S., Fiji Airways organised regional flights from across the Pacific to bring these missionaries to Nadi ahead of their trans-Pacific flight to Salt Lake City. 
 
On the flight from Kiribati to Nadi, 11 Fijians were able to fly back home to Fiji. To cut the weight of cargo and allow these 11 Fijians to make it aboard, 68 missionaries left their bags and possessions behind in Kiribati. Thanks to their sacrifice, these Fijians are all safely back in Fiji, where they’ll be reunited with their families after a mandatory two-week quarantine. 
 
That, my friends, is a profound demonstration of what it means to put humanity first and what it means to have love and compassion for your fellow human beings. Not only in words, but in action. Because while thisf virus can shut borders, keep us at home and even take lives, it cannot rob us of our humanity. It cannot diminish the love we hold for others, regardless of who they are, where they come from or the faith they follow. 
 
Vinaka to all who helped bring these 11 Fijians home. In the weeks and months to come, serious sacrifices may be demanded from all of us –– as long as we use compassion as our guiding principle, there is no challenge we –– the Fijian people –– cannot overcome. 
 
Vinaka vakalevu, thank you. God Bless Fiji.