Bula Vinaka and happy Fiji-50 Day.
I began our 50th Anniversary celebrations in Levuka, Fiji’s first capital under the colonial government. There I journeyed through history, visiting the 1874 Deed of Cession site, speaking with those who lived through our independence in 1970, and spending some very happy time with Levuka’s children –– just some of the young Fijians who will forge Fiji’s future. All the while, it was pouring rain on the island. And when it came time for our tree-planting ceremony, it was still coming down hard.
No matter –– we headed out into the downpour to kick-off our Fiji-50 celebrations with smiles on our faces. We knew the rain could dampen our celebration, but never our spirits –– nothing ever could.
My fellow Fijians, the challenge of this year has been more serious than any bout of bad weather. Even though Fiji may be the safest place in the world from COVID-19, the closure of our borders has made the pain of this pandemic personal for all of us. But today is our day–– our Fiji-50 Day –– and no virus, no once-in-a-century crisis can temper the love we share for our nation, our people, our home.
We are keeping COVID-safe, so we will not be breaking any attendance records at the RFMF parade in Suva’s Albert Park. Indeed, most of you are watching this from home among friends, family, and neighbours, perhaps with a Fijian flag flying from the roof of your home, held in your hand, or draped around your shoulders, with a lovo or curry cooking in the back. Some may be mixing kava.
No –– this Fiji Day will not be remembered for being lavish. But it will be remembered. History will tell that today, despite the great adversity we faced, our spirits were not broken. In good spirits and good health, Fijians in every city, town, community, including our most rural and maritime regions, proudly celebrated our 50-year journey as a nation.
Together, over these five decades, Fijians have risen to heights some never imagined, but which we always saw for ourselves. We are a major contributor to peacekeeping in the world, and a world leader in the fight to combat climate change and protect our oceans. We are the economic hub of the South Pacific, the leader in aviation, finance, telecommunications, and technology, trade, and commerce. We have vastly expanded our networks of infrastructure. We have put the ills of the past behind us. Today all Fijians share common and equal citizenry and equal votes of equal value, along with a vast array of political and socioeconomic rights in our Fijian Constitution.
Our ruggers have come home from the Olympic Games with gold around their necks. We have played host to major international meetings and sporting events. While our borders may be closed today, we are still one of the world’s most desirable tourist destinations.
Our success is not owed to luck or chance. It has come because our people, with their diverse strengths and skillsets, have together propelled Fiji forward, both knowingly and unknowingly. Because we have united, because we worked hard, and because we have pooled our talents, we have built a great nation; we have defined what it truly means to be a Fijian. And what is that? To be a Fijian is to have courage and optimism. To be a Fijian is to love this country, love your neighbours, and look after your fellow citizens, irrespective of their background. Because to be a resilient people, we must be a strong people, a caring people, and a united people. Together we have done great things, and together we will do more great things in the next 50 years.”
Nowhere is that hope for our future more visible than in the aspirations of the youngest among us. That is why, this year, we asked the students of Fiji to tell us: “What makes Fiji Special?”
We asked, and the bright, hope-filled children of Fiji gave us wonderful answers: Our many languages. The many ways we worship God. Our many proud traditions. Our love of sports like football, netball, and, of course, rugby. Our untouched reefs, beaches, forests and waterfalls. Our rights and freedoms as Fijians. Our Fijian Constitution. Our music. Our sugar. Our fruits and vegetables. Even our lovos and our curries.
But my favourite answer came from Alexandra Surendra and Ana Maria Tovate from the Saint Joseph’s Secondary School. They told us that regardless of our country’s spectacular scenery and our exceptional experiences, it is the Fijian people who together make our journey complete.
My fellow Fijians, Alexandra and Ana Maria were right, and are clearly wise beyond their years. The past 50 years have proven that it is our people who, together, have made Fiji the most special place on Earth.
No matter how we arrived here, no matter who our ancestors are, we all make Fiji special, we all make Fiji stronger. When we stand together, as friends, as family, as fellow Fijians, there is no challenge we cannot overcome, there is nothing we cannot achieve. So, to every Fijian, wherever you are, however you are celebrating, I thank you for all you do to make Fiji special, and I wish you a very happy Fiji-50 day.
God bless you.
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Today we are announcing one new border quarantine case of COVID-19. The patient is a 64-year-old female Fijian citizen who arrived on repatriation flight GA7280 from New Delhi, which arrived in Nadi on Thursday, August 27th, 2020.
As with all prior border quarantine cases, this latest patient has been under strict border quarantine conditions since arrival into Nadi. This includes compulsory 14-day quarantine at a government-designated quarantine facility under supervision from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services. She is in stable condition and has been transferred to the isolation ward at the Lautoka hospital as per standard protocol for confirmed cases.
This is the third border quarantine case confirmed among the passengers on board this repatriation flight. As previously announced, in line with our infection control protocols, all areas of Nadi Airport accessible to passengers from that flight have been hygienically deep-cleaned, as overseen by our on-site medical officer and health inspectors. The frontline border staff that were directly involved in the arrival of the passengers on this flight have also all tested negative for COVID-19.
With this new case, Fiji has six active border quarantine cases, all of whom are being treated in isolation at either the Nadi or Lautoka hospitals. We are diligently enforcing our border quarantine and infection control protocols. As such, these border quarantine cases continue to pose zero risks to the health and wellbeing of the Fijian public.
To my Fellow Fijians,
Ni sa Bula Vinaka, Namaste, Ni Hao, Noa’ia ‘e Mauri and a very Happy Constitution Day to you all!
As you all know, we had to think a bit differently about our celebration this year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Because Fiji is a COVID-19 contained country and our children can safely attend school, we gave our students the chance to take part in a virtual Constitution Day celebration — one that called on their creativity to answer the following prompt:
“Given the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, how can all of us work together to uphold every Fijian’s right to health, as enshrined in our Fijian Constitution?”
I want to thank all the students who helped us answer that prompt through essays, videos, poems and short stories. All together, we saw hundreds of submissions. As hard as it was, we have narrowed down all of those incredible contributions to five national winners.
It is now my privilege to announce those students today: Our first winner is Raijeli Sakaria, a Year Eight (8) student from the Bhawani Dayal Memorial Primary School, who gave us all some great tips on how to stay COVID-19-safe ––by including the installation of the careFIJI digital contact tracing mobile application in your mobile phones.
The Year 11 students of Labasa College are among our winners as well –– with a sketch that shows how all of us can work together to keep Fiji COVID-19 contained.
We are also awarding a duo from the Rakiraki Methodist Mission School –– Year Eight students Jone Raibevu and Aminiasi Dalituicama who contributed a short and sweet spoken word performance.
And with a powerful essay, which we have since recorded for the nation to hear, Year 10 student Oswell Morell wrote his winning piece on how and why our constitutional right to health matters for every Fijian.
Last, but certainly not least, Year One student NES Natania Damudamu of the Gospel School of the Deaf has been selected as our fifth national winner for her video showing us, via sign language, how we can all help realise every Fijian’s constitutional right to health by properly washing our hands.
We are grateful to the parents and teachers around the country who helped us make this year’s Constitution Day a success.
I hope you had fun with your videos, and all learned something along the way. Congratulations to our winners, I look forward to hosting you all at the State House.
Happy Constitution Day!
May Almighty God Bless Our Beloved Nation. Thank you!
Earlier this week we assured the public the arrival of repatriation flight GA7280 from New Delhi to Fiji on the 27th of August was dealt with in line with our border quarantine protocols –– which are the most stringent anywhere in the world. As some of you may be aware, several New Zealand citizens on board that flight continued onwards travel after spending about 30 minutes on the tarmac of Nadi Airport. Five of those passengers went on to test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival to New Zealand. As per our infection control protocols, all areas of Nadi Airport accessible to passengers from that flight have been hygienically deep-cleaned.
As per Fijian border quarantine protocol, all disembarking passengers from that flight were tested for the virus. Following the confirmation of cases in New Zealand, we did expect some test results to return positive. Two passengers did indeed test positive for the virus. They are both male Fijian citizens, one is aged 55 and the other is 22. These confirmations bring Fiji’s total number of active border quarantine cases to five.
Both gentlemen have been hygienically secured in the isolation ward at Nadi Hospital. Neither were displaying symptoms at that time of testing. Again, these tests were run as part of our standard border quarantine process.
All 83 other passengers on board the flight have returned negative results. These passengers have each been entered into mandatory 14-day quarantine period in a government designated quarantine facility under supervision from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. If any develop symptoms, they will be tested for the virus. At the end of their quarantine period, we will test them once again. If they return negative results, they will be discharged.
The frontline border staff that were directly involved in the arrival of the passengers on this flight have also all tested negative for COVID-19.
Once again, I must emphasize: Our border quarantine and infection prevention control protocols are as strict as they come. So long as they are upheld there is no risk to the Fijian public from border quarantine cases.
Today we are announcing one new border quarantine case of COVID-19, a 25-year-old female nursing officer. She contracted the virus while treating one of our other border quarantine cases in an isolation unit.
We are considering this case a “border quarantine case” because this nurse never entered a public space after contracting the virus. As per protocol, she worked and lived in the isolation centre, with exactly zero contact with the public. She then entered a Fijian Government quarantine facility –– again, without ever interacting with anyone from the public. After developing symptoms while in quarantine, she was tested. After she returned a positive result for COVID-19, she was admitted to the isolation ward at Nadi Hospital where she is recovering well. In fact, her symptoms have since dissipated.
Her fellow isolation unit nursing colleagues and medical officers on rotation have all returned negative results. Out of an abundance of caution, even though they never interacted directly with this patient, all relevant frontline health, hotel staff and military personnel have been swabbed for the virus and tested negative.
Around the world, rates of infection among healthcare staff are among highest of any group. As nearby as New Zealand, during the month of April, one in ten cases are recorded among healthcare workers. Even when every protocol is followed, even when Personal Protective Gear is employed properly, this unpredictable and unwieldy virus can still be transmitted.
Despite more than 3,000 patients held within our quarantine facilities, this is the first positive case confirmed among our staff working in our isolation facilities. But given what we’ve seen around the world, we are quite sure it won’t be the last. That is why we’ve structured an airtight operation system within our isolation facilities to ensure no risk to the general public –– I’d like to cover again exactly how those facilities function.
Our medical staff work these isolation facilities through a roster system, whereby they work and live in the isolation facility for 14 days, then go into quarantine in one of our government designated quarantine facility for 14 days. They must then register another negative COVID test result before they can rejoin their family. This is the most stringent system of isolation unit management in the world, more rigorous than both Australia and New Zealand.
Our healthcare staff all operate in appropriate personal protective equipment at all times. There is no shortage of these supplies in Fiji and our staff are well-trained in its use. We’re constantly reviewing and strengthening personal protection measures wherever we see an opportunity. However, as I’ve said, some risk will always remain due to the aggressively contagious nature of the virus. That is why we must always remain vigilant.
This will be our 11th border quarantine case. We currently now have two active cases in Lautoka and one in Nadi Hospital.
I know the stringent protocols we have in place are a great comfort to the Fijian people. But we must never forget nor take for granted the exceptional sacrifices these measures demand of our healthcare staff. There is nothing easy about living and working away from your family for four weeks at a time.
There is nothing easy about working to save a life while also mitigating the risk of further infection. And it takes nothing less than absolutely bravery to work in our isolation wards. The Fijians who do so are heroes –– full stop.
Our medical staff of orderlies, ward assistants, laboratory technicians, nurses and doctors have together with the members of our security forces (RFMF, Navy and Police) held the frontline since the COVID 19 battle begun. We have as a group have weathered criticism, we have endured hardships, we have seen and experienced social and emotional turmoil, but we will never surrender. We will always honour our duty to our people; to keep them healthy and safe –– and we will do so with vigilance, with courage and with compassion.
We have noted that several recent cases confirmed at the New Zealand border in Christchurch transited through Fiji while travelling from India to New Zealand. We want to assure the public that these individuals did not contract or transmit the virus while in Fiji. These individuals landed in Fiji, spent 30 minutes in Nadi Airport, interacted with no one, and then transited onwards to New Zealand.