Entry Conditions for Red List Countries – 29 November 2021

Fijian Government Steps-up entry conditions for red list countries in response to Omicron variant

The Fijian Government has strengthened its strict conditions for entry for incoming travelers from red list countries in response to the newly-reported Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“We’re monitoring the Omicron variant closely as it has been shown to carry significant mutations that could spell higher rates of transmissibility and virulence. We commend South Africa on identifying and publishing the first information on this new variant. So far, field evidence does suggest higher transmissibility. However, more study is needed to determine if transmissibility is truly increased if the variant is less responsive to natural and vaccine-induced immunity and if the disease caused by the variant is more severe,” said Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services Dr. James Fong.

“The process of risk assessment for our red list and Travel Partner Countries (TPC) was developed with the knowledge that new variants of the virus were highly likely to be detected. It analyses factors such as country vaccine coverage and rates of community transmission. We will continue to rely on that assessment process moving forward.”

For Fijians located in red list countries, which have always included the Southern African States, the measures for incoming travelers are as follows:

  1. Travelers must be fully vaccinated with one of Fiji’s approved vaccines;
  2. Travelers must undergo escalated pre-departure protocols, which include self-isolation for the five days prior to travel under the oversight of the employer or sponsor and test negative on day 5 and within 72 hours prior to departure; and
  3. On arrival to Fiji, the quarantine period for travelers from red list countries will increase to 14 days with a PCR test done on arrival on day 5 and day 12.

The Fijian Government will maintain the entry conditions for all arrivals from Travel Partner Countries, which include requirements such as full vaccination with an approved COVID-19 vaccine, a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken 72 hours prior to departure, a 3-night stay in a Care-Fiji Certified hotel, and an additional COVID-19 test on Day 2 after arrival.

The preference of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services is that travelers from red list countries go to a listed TPC for ten days prior to traveling to Fiji. However, given some international border restrictions, particularly in Southern Africa, we understand some Fijian citizens and residents may need to book travel directly to Fiji.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will provide advice on a process for the public to help us by providing information on citizens in Southern Africa so those citizens can be registered and assisted to adhere to the strict conditions for entry.

“This new variant is a reminder that for as long as there is a pandemic, Fiji will continue to face a threat from the virus and its variants. The most important step every Fijian can take in response to this variant is to become fully vaccinated and encourage others around us to do the same. We have one of the highest rates of vaccine coverage in the world –– but Fiji is safest when we achieve as close to 100% coverage as possible. And we must continue to adhere closely to the other health protection measures we know can limit the spread, including good handwashing, mask-wearing, and physical distancing.”

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is currently establishing genomic sequencing capacity within the Fiji Centre for Disease Control to process any positive samples of concern.

The Ministry is currently administering booster doses to front-line health officials and will soon deploy booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable members of the public.

(Source: Ministry of Health and Medical Services Website)

Minister Faiyaz Koya’s Statement at the third Japan-Pacific Islands Economic Forum

Fellow Ministers and Representatives of the Government of Japan;
Chairman, Japan External Trade Organisation;
Fellow Ministers from the Pacific and Government representatives;
Participating Private Sector Representatives;
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat;
Participants of the Forum;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Ohayo-gozaimas, Bula Vinaka, and warm greetings from the Pacific.

It gives me great pleasure to be representing the Pacific at this third Japan and Pacific Islands Economic Forum, in my capacity as the Chair of the Forum Trade Ministers.

Trade and Investment plays an increasingly critical role in the growth of Pacific Island Countries (PICs) and has led to the development of many essential sectors, both in goods and services.

The increase in the level of exports to and investments from trading partners such as Japan, supports PICs in creating income and employment and strengthens domestic private sector development through transfers of technology and know-how of management.

The PICs are able to strengthen their position through this bilateral trade and economic platform. The continued commitment of Japan provides the PICs a foundation to launch into the global trade arena.

The PICs exports to Japan increased by 114.3 per cent from US$1.4 billion in 2008 to $3 billion in 2019. Exports were dampened, to $2.25 billion, in 2020, which can be attributed to the impact of the pandemic on the supply chain and transportation network.

As of 2020, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji are the top three PICs exporters to Japan, however, there is potential for other PICs to create a niche in the Japanese market.

Today’s Forum not only is an opportunity for the business community to share their interests, but also for the PICs to share policies, incentives, reforms and future plans for economic recovery.

The event compliments the role of Forum Trade Ministers, who have the mandate of setting the regional vision to attract trade and investments. Whilst ensuring there is a conducive business climate for private sector investments to flourish in the Pacific.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

None of us here today needs reminding of the mayhem that we have endured in the past two years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Decades of economic growth have spiraled downwards. However, there are opportunities that have been spurred by this adversity.

This is an opportune forum for us to reflect on the confronting challenges that the pandemic has brought. But more importantly to seek and explore ways to truly strengthen collaboration between Japan and Pacific businesses in an attempt towards economic recovery and rebuilding efforts.

I wish to convey appreciation on behalf of the Pacific nations, to Japan, for standing with us during the pandemic and providing necessary assistance, including vaccines. Japan, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has pledged to assist 10 PICs, with a USD 9 million contribution to boost a vaccine-powered economic recovery in the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Japan has been a longstanding partner for the region and host of many international exhibitions, trade shows, and seminars to continue the promotion and marketing of Pacific products and businesses.

They also have a strong presence in the region through agencies such as JICA, JETRO, Pacific Trade and Invest (PT&I) and the Pacific Islands Centre. These agencies support Pacific businesses by facilitating access to the Japanese market. They gather market intelligence, facilitate support and business-to-business connections between Japanese and Pacific entrepreneurs.

These bodies add to industry development, capacity building, resource enhancement and facilitate investment in areas that utilise Japan’s strengths – such as, renewable energy, environment (waste management, marine plastics, water, disaster prevention) and health and medical care. The Pacific looks forward to learning more and working in collaboration with these organisations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In addition to the above, the 2021 Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM), further discussed and enhanced the agenda to expand this partnership.

Our Leaders discussed five priority areas at the PALM, which included:

● COVID-19 response,
● sustainable oceans,
● climate change and disaster resilience,
● strengthening foundations for sustainable & economic development, and
● human resources development.

Each of these priorities are critical contributors and components for the growth of a strong and healthy economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Forum today paves the way forward and into the future. We will be able to identify opportunities, and areas where to combine efforts, pool resources and mobilise collective action to benefit the region.

The business-to-business interactions will allow for expansion beyond traditional sectors of tourism, apparel, agriculture, fisheries. It will enable growing entities, especially the micro, small and medium enterprises, to venture into other untapped areas, such as cultural and creative industries, renewables, waste management, to name a few.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Work is underway in many PICs in terms of review of investment frameworks. In addition, reforms are being undertaken to improve doing business policies, to enable Japanese businesses to invest in the Pacific.

Fiji, amongst other PICs, is leading the way in these reforms. Earlier this year, the Fijian Parliament passed the Investment Act, which is benchmarked on international best practices and is considered a trailblazer in the region.
Furthermore, the Fijian Government, through my Ministry, is coordinating the move to a digitalised platform for applications and approval. This process has been started with an online business portal called bizfiji.com, which is now being developed into a full-fledged online approvals portal.

I wanted to share the Fijian experience to give the Japanese business community an understanding of how the Pacific is progressing and embracing technology. We have a talented and educated workforce. And we have the vigour to explore opportunities in new and emerging sectors.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Pacific is a growing location for businesses with transportation and communication links that makes it an attractive investment location.

The Pacific’s warm people, its tropical climate, natural pristine environment, steadily developing infrastructure, pro-business policies and legislation makes PICs an ideal destination for business.

With these words, I wish you all a successful forum and look forward to its outcome.

Arigato gozaimasu.

(Source: Fijian Government Website)

https://www.fiji.gov.fj/Media-Centre/Speeches/English/MINISTER-FAIYAZ-KOYA-S-STATEMENT-AT-THE-THIRD-JAPA

PM Bainimarama’s Statement at the Ocean Mana – One Blue Planet Event (Saturday, 6 November 2021)

Leaders and Heads of Delegation;
The Pacific Political Ocean Champion;
Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General and Pacific
Ocean Commissioner;
Secretaries General of the Commonwealth and the Organisation of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific States;
The UNSG’s Special Envoy on Ocean;
The General Secretary of the Pacific
Conference of Churches;
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends.

Ni sa Bula Vinaka. Greetings to you all. It is indeed an honour to be here for this event, our Ocean Mana to One Blue Pacific. As this is our first gathering in Glasgow, I am very pleased to see you all today as we join forces towards a successful COP26.

We are here because we all agree on one thing – our Planet is in grave danger. It is no longer business as usual, and we must accelerate all efforts to restore our planet’s health as the wrath of climate change intensifies.

The alarm bells have been sounded loudly and this time more deafening than ever. This is the new normal right throughout our globe, from sea-level rise, flash flooding, cyclones, and storm surges, to droughts and bush fires. If we continue with our current actions or inaction, we will send our Blue Planet –– our global canoe –– sinking into the abyss.

These unprecedented times call for unprecedented solutions, and as large oceanic sovereign states of the Blue Pacific, we look no further than to our endowment, our lifeblood – our Ocean – for these innovative solutions.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have just witnessed one such unprecedented solution – the Leaders’ Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise.

I am proud to have presented to you the united appeal and call from the Leaders of the Blue Pacific to save our low-lying coastal developing states, and our entire world, from climate change-related sea-level rise.

Indeed, sea-level rise “is a defining issue that imperils the livelihoods and well-being of our peoples, and undermines the realisation of a peaceful, secure and sustainable future for our region” and for our world.

The recent IPCC Report underlines continued sea-level rise in coastal areas throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion. Extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.

Changes to the ocean, including warming, more frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, and reduced oxygen levels, have been clearly linked to human influence. These changes affect both ocean ecosystems and the people that rely on them.

Nations like Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Republic of the Marshall Islands are at the frontline of this global crisis, with the rising sea eating away our shorelines, leaving our homes and people exposed to the ruthless onslaught of coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion.

In Fiji, we have relocated villagers from Vunidogoloa, Narikoso, and four others which are no longer viable for human habitation.

Climate-driven displacement isn’t a doomsday proposition. It is happening now across our Blue Pacific, and I shudder to think of what the future of my grandchildren and your grandchildren will be like if we continue down this path.

Excellencies and friends, the Declaration is not just another sheet of paper. Every word, as pronounced by our Leaders tonight, carries the voices of our people, our children, our plight and our fight to save our people and our home from this crisis.

We do so by upholding the primacy of international law, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, as the global legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. The Declaration is our good faith interpretation of the 1982 UNCLOS on an issue that is critical to all of us.

[Our call to the world]

Ladies and Gentlemen, the ocean is central to us. It is our geography, our culture and our economy. It is at the heart of our existence and we see no solutions without it.

As a public regional good, the health and resilience of the oceans features very heavily in the development of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. As such, and in line with Our 2021 Ocean Statement, we call for urgent action to reduce and prevent the irreversible impacts of climate change on our Ocean. We also call for the integration of oceans into the UNFCCC.

To all of our friends across the globe, we share with you a very simple but a consequential message: While it is true that climate change induced sea-level rise has the potential to impact the lives of our Blue Pacific Continent citizens in a very dramatic way, this phenomenon is not by any stretch of the imagination peculiar to the Blue Pacific region.

In effect, many countries in the different subregions of the globe do stand to be similarly affected. As such, it is in all our collective interest to build strong partnerships in our search for scalable solutions.

To that end, and as a first and major step forward, I take this opportunity to extend to all of you, an invitation on behalf of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders and all citizens of the Blue Pacific Continent: Join Us – under the banner of the Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise – to lead the work to protect the future of our peoples. Let us build stronger partnerships to better take this work forward.

Join us and let us all be Leaders for our Oceans.

I thank you. Vinaka vakalevu.

(Source: Fijian Government Website)

https://www.fiji.gov.fj/Media-Centre/Speeches/English/PM-BAINIMARAMA-S-STATEMENT-AT-THE-OCEAN-MANA-ONE-B

PM Bainimarama’s Statement at the Commonwealth Call for Action on Living Lands: Accelerating Action Against Climate Change, Desertification and Biodiversity Loss Across the 3 Rio Conventions (Thursday, 4 November 2021)

Bula Vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

Much of this COP for Fiji is about securing plans that halve global carbon emissions by 2030 –– which we know is necessary to keep 1.5 alive. But today’s discussion isn’t about “1.5” but rather “1.2” –– the fast-approaching threshold of warming that is already devastating so many of our communities.

We see its consequences in the barren reefs, burning forests, and parched farmlands that have come to define the climate crisis. We, humankind have done this through our reckless levels of carbon emissions. And we are suffering for it alongside every organism on the Earth –– including the very food we eat. Our food systems are buckling under the strain of storms, floods, droughts, erratic weather and the rising seas. If we fail to fortify them, widespread food shortages will feed the forces of chaos. The mass starvation that ensues will lead to mass migration and mass unrest that will render entire societies ungovernable.

A truly resilient food system will be indispensable for every nation if we are to prevent that terrible future from becoming our reality. A truly resilient food system will have sustainability at its core—sustainability in what we produce, how we produce, and how much we produce. It links us all and makes us all responsible for ourselves and each other. And we must challenge our agricultural innovators to breed hardy crops that can weather whatever the climate throws at them.
Fiji is doing this through a comprehensive and integrated legal framework.

We integrated food security into Fiji’s three-year-old National Adaptation Plan to ensure that Fijians can continue to put locally-grown, nutritious produce on the table—even when storms intensify, droughts prolong, and the seas rise. And food security is also one of the adaptation targets in our NDCs.

Our National Action Plan on Combatting Desertification –– launched in 2007 –– is at work today combating degradation. 8 million seedlings have already gone into the soil since 2019 as part of our commitment to plant 30 million trees.

Through an Agriculture Rural Land Use Policy, we have adopted sustainable land-management technologies with the goal of having no net land degradation by 2050.

Our Land Conservation and Improvement Act marries sustainable socio-economic policy with responsible environmental management. And our Ministry of Agriculture’s five-year plan is aligned with UN Conventions on food and nutrition security, despite the changing climate, through a bottom-up approach that enlists farmers in this national effort.

The arrival of COVID-19 put these systems and protections to the test. With major economic sectors like tourism at a standstill, we grew our way through the pandemic by strengthening our commitment to our agriculture sector. From encouraging backyard gardens to commercializing new sectors – like rice –– we are maximizing Fiji’s natural advantages. Those include our year-round favourable growing conditions, quality land, and reliable water supply. They serve to make Fiji and, by extension, the entire Pacific more food-secure.

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, we need not forsake prosperity to preserve our natural world. We need not accept the false choice between development and a quality environment. Looking backwards to that old model of development blinds us to a better future. We have a new model and new way to strike a balance between human progress and environmental protection. We can be excellent environmental stewards while we improve the standards of living for our people. We can create livelihoods without sacrificing our biodiversity. Rather than leave our children a world of lifeless deserts, we can pass on ecosystems that are rich with life and capable of supporting coming generations.

The “Rio Conventions” reflect the commitment of all countries to preserve the global environment. Let’s meet that commitment now with the courage to act.

Thank you.

(Source: Fijian Government Website)

https://www.fiji.gov.fj/Media-Centre/Speeches/English/PM-BAINIMARAMA-S-STATEMENT-AT-THECOMMONWEALTH-CALL

PM Bainimarama’s Statement at the Coral Reef Rescue Initiative (Thursday, 4 November 2021)

Bula Vinaka and good morning.

It’s wonderful to be with you to speak on a cause that is deep within the heart of every Fijian. And I thank the Coral Reef Rescue Initiative for keeping our reefs where they belong, at the very heart of our climate action effort.

Today, I wanted to share my own story, and my own relationship with Fiji’s reefs. It’s not an easy story for me to share. But I do so in the hope that it shows how humanity’s relationship with our ocean can change, and must change, as mine has.

Like most Fijians, I was on the water at a very young age. My first real job was working on board an old sailing yacht called “Maroro” –– a boat that already had a rich history as the personal vessel of Queen Sālote of Tonga.

It sounds nicer than it was. We were not royalty, nor were we pleasure sailing. Of our many duties, there is one I’ll never forget and will always regret: reef blasting. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this terrible practice, we were demolishing coral with explosives, carving channels for boats to safely pass through.

Sadly, that work was in high demand. I travelled our waters blasting reefs –– some of the richest and most vibrant sources of biodiversity on the planet –– and went on to take that disastrous skillset with me into the Fijian Navy. I learned to dive properly, and became even more effective.

Not your usual start for an oceans champion, I know. But it was those years, as a young man on a boat sailing our vast Blue Pacific that forged the connection with the ocean that I carry with me today. As I learned more about our reefs –– and the lasting damage we were causing–– my heart broke.

When you spend your young years in a nation of 330 islands, the vast stretches of reef that surround you feel endless. It feels almost arrogant to think that you can erase them. But there are limits to their resilience, and we humans have the power to destroy them at a scale we can scarcely imagine. Blasted reefs take decades to recover. Some never have. In a matter of seconds, a single assault was erasing life systems constructed over millions of years.

In 1982, by the time I had risen to the rank of Commander in the Fijian Navy, we recognised the error of our ways. We banned reef blasting for good.

Fiji’s reefs today are properly marked so they can be easily navigated. We rely on hydrographic technology to keep vessels safe at sea. Our great Sea Reef –– the third longest reef system in the Southern Hemisphere and the home of half our known reef fish and three-quarters of our coral –– is under a regime of sustainable management. According to the WWF, its reefs, inter-tidal areas, and coastal wetlands feed around 80% of Fiji’s population

Blasting may no longer threaten Fiji’s reefs, but these vital ecosystems remain under attack. It isn’t happening as quickly as with a stick of dynamite, but it is far more extensive, far more effective, and far more deadly. And humankind, once again, is the villain.

Carbon is our new weapon of choice. And when we emit it into the atmosphere, our ocean –– the planet’s largest carbon sink –– sucks up huge amounts of it. It warms the seas, and acidifies them, making it impossible for ocean life to thrive.

I’ve watched how the changing climate is changing our oceans. I’ve seen mountains of bleached coral stacked on beaches. I’ve seen fish stocks decrease and reef structures levelled by cyclones. And I no longer suffer from the illusion that our oceans are endlessly resilient. A Fijian born today may not have a reef to visit by the time they reach my age. And in some of the more extreme warming scenarios, we risk turning the entire equatorial belt into a death zone. Humanity will struggle to survive that massive loss in life, culture, economic potential, health and food security.

Fiji has fought at these negotiations to engrain the Ocean Pathway into the processes of the UNFCCC. Now we must decide where that pathway leads.

Number one, for the sake of the reefs, ocean, and the general habitability of the planet, we must cut carbon emissions. As that happens, we have to do the work of rebuilding the resilience of our reefs.

And Fiji is open to partnerships to ensure that we pass our reefs on to coming generations.

Fiji has partnered with the Green Climate Fund, the Global Fund for Coral Reefs, the Global Environment Facility, the WWF, the Bezos Earth Fund, and other multilateral, bilateral, philanthropic and private sector partners to help meet our commitment to sustainably manage all 1.3 square million kilometers of Fiji’s ocean, with 30% declared as marine protected areas.

And we’ve seen that good reef management works. After category five Cyclone Winston slammed into Fiji in 2016, many of our reefs in the storm’s path lay in ruin. But early this year, we confirmed that those same cyclone-devastated reefs have made a remarkable comeback. The lesson is that well-managed reefs are more resilient reefs.

If we manage them responsibly, and do what needs to be done to curb carbon emissions, these eco-systems can thrive.

Rather than see their colours and beauty sacrificed for the sake of the world’s carbon addiction, they can feed, support and inspire coming generations. That is the carbon-neutral and nature-positive future that Fiji is here in Glasgow to fight for.

My friends, as ocean Leaders, we speak for the ocean. We are its defenders –– and we must defend it as seriously as we defend our citizens. For its health will determine the quality of our future and that of our descendants.

My life on the ocean –– even its unfortunate start –– has shaped my perspective. It’s why I call out climate denial. Because today, we know better. The science is there. Our fate is mapped out before us. Today’s teenagers in Fiji are protecting our reefs –– inventing plastic-alternatives, attending UN conferences, and protesting climate inaction. If a child in Fiji can do it, Leaders of the world’s most powerful companies and countries have no excuse.

The lesson my life at sea has taught me is this: We can’t be perfect –– many of us have not been. We have made many mistakes, and at times we have acted out of ignorance. But that isn’t an excuse for inaction today. Let’s make a promise to each other to leave the world better than we left it. Admit to our mistakes. Learn from them. And grow alongside the science. By doing so, you can be the change that you want to see in the world, and you can help steer us to a brighter, bluer future.

Thank you –– or as we say in Fiji, “Vinaka Vakalevu”.

(Source: Fijian Government Website)

https://www.fiji.gov.fj/Media-Centre/Speeches/English/PM-BAINIMARAMA-S-STATEMENT-AT-THE-CORAL-REEF-RESCU

PM Bainimarama’s Statement at the Launch of the Infrastructure for Resilient Island States Event (Thursday, 4 November 2021)

Bula Vinaka and good morning.

Yesterday marked the start of cyclone season in the South Pacific –– a period now defined by record-smashing super-storms that can erase years of infrastructure progress in a matter of hours.

I know because I’ve seen it happen. Whether it’s storms, floods or fires, the same hard lessons are being learned around the world: building to last century’s standards is building to lose. The world is warming, the impacts are terrifying, and the standards we build to must be defined by and readied for those intensifying risks.

It takes resources to build resilience. But we either we pay to adapt now, or pay a much higher price in the aftermath of climate-driven devastation. By becoming the first developing state to enact a comprehensive Climate Change Act, Fiji will be required to adapt our building codes and standards to the climate reality and be inclusive of our green priorities. But there is a gap, trillions of dollars deep, between what vulnerable nations have and what they need to build resilience to a climate crisis we did next to nothing to cause. 

The welfare of people in both developed and developing nations depends on changes to the way we build and plan. Trillions of dollars may sound insurmountable. But the alternative is unthinkable. Even now, we are seeing what can happen when worsening climate-driven disasters meet outdated infrastructure and transport networks. Unchecked carbon emissions could see the foundation of our interconnected global marketplace fall out from under us. We can only bridge the financing gap between vulnerability and resilience if we fully enlist public and private sector sources of funding.  

We welcome India’s launch of the Infrastructure Resilience Project for Small Island States–– it’s a promising start. Prime Minister Modi, thank you for your leadership. We trust this initiative will reach well beyond technical assistance and capacity building to unlock trillions in private sector capital. It can do that by de-risking critical investments now that will build resilience for those on the front line of the climate crisis.  Fiji’s Relocation and Displaced Peoples Trust Fund, which establishes a proven process to move at-risk communities and their infrastructure, is one example of where those funds can make an impact.

Of course, the single most important measure we must take to protect our development progress is to drastically curtail the emissions that are changing the climate and forcing this crisis upon us. That is the responsibility of every nation, but the greater burden falls justly on the greatest emitters. If we fail to dramatically cut emissions, if we fail to move swiftly and immediately to free ourselves of our reliance on fossil fuels, we will fly past the 1.5-degree guardrail towards levels of warming that totally will upend our understanding of resilience. It is a future that we are gathered here in Glasgow to prevent at all costs. Let’s not forget it.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

(Source: Fijian Government Website)

https://www.fiji.gov.fj/Media-Centre/Speeches/English/PM-BAINIMARAMA-S-STATEMENT-AT-THE-LAUNCH-OF-THE-IN

Fiji Day Message by H.E Mr. Isikeli Mataitoga (The Japan Times, 12 October 2021)

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Honourable Prime Minister Bainimarama’s COVID-19 Announcement (10 October 2021)

Bula Vinaka and Happy Fiji Day!

I spent this morning at our first Fiji Navy Church Service after five long months of worshipping from home. Sitting among my fellow servicemen and women, along with my loved ones and friends, new and old, I was grateful. Grateful to every Fijian who helped get us here; our doctors, nurses, and members of our disciplined forces, the lorry drivers, and our teams deploying food rations and disbursing unemployment assistance, and grateful to each of you, the Fijians who have chosen the protection that vaccines offer.

We did not regain the privilege of returning to our churches, temples and mosques simply because we wanted it or even demanded it. We earned it through sacrifice. Fiji’s streets were never filled with mask-less protestors calling for the premature rollback of health restrictions. We returned to our houses of worship, to our places of work, to our businesses and into the arms of our friends and family the right way: By becoming one of the fastest-vaccinated countries in the world. And we should be proud to have made that journey together with compassion, patience, and vigilance.

Over 80 percent of adults in Fiji are fully-vaccinated, and more than 96 percent have received at least one dose. You may remember that our target date for reaching the 80- percent threshold was 31 October. So, job well done, everyone. We hit our goal a full three weeks ahead of schedule. And today, on Fiji Day, we can celebrate with some major announcements about what we can all expect life will look like for us heading into December of this year.

My fellow Fijians, before we get to those changes, let me be clear that I am not here to roll out the victory banner and declare “mission accomplished”. 80.3 percent of adults may be fully vaccinated, but there are still many Fijians who are only partially vaccinated, meaning they have only received one dose, and partial protection is not enough. Our mission is to make sure all those Fijians get dose number two. And as for the several thousand who are not vaccinated at all –– some of whom represent large chunks of certain communities in certain locations–– we need to get them off the sideline and into this national effort.

In that spirit, we have a very big draw for our Win Together Sweepstakes today, with 51,000 dollars in prize money being split among ten fully-vaccinated Fijians in recognition of our 51st anniversary of independence. I’ve said before, the best reward for being vaccinated is the protection vaccines provide against COVID-19. But it takes time to get both doses, and those who have made that good choice deserve a “thank you” from their nation. That’s what we’re here to do. I’ll remind everyone of how the lottery works.

This screen behind me displays the same random number generator that we used last time. At the press of a button, it will run through all of the names of the fully-vaccinated Fijians who applied for this draw. Last time, we selected one winner. Today, we’re selecting ten. Each of whom will receive 5,100 dollars.

If you don’t see your name –– don’t worry. There will be more chances to win. We have Christmas draw planned for December where 10 fully-vaccinated adults will win 2,500 dollars each and 20 fully-vaccinated children from ages 12 to 17 will win 500 dollars each. We will announce details on when and how to apply.

Congratulations to our ten winners, we’ll be in contact with each of them to deliver the good news if they’re not watching already.

My fellow Fijians, we named this national vaccine lottery the Win Together sweepstakes because even if your name is not among these ten lucky Fijians — we all win when all of us become fully-vaccinated. We have shared in the sacrifice of this struggle — as His Excellency the President reminded us in his Fiji Day address — and we all share in the success of our response. Our national prize is the good health of our people and the ability to live our lives, and earn our living, as we all choose.

It pains me to know that so many of our citizens have been denied what we all once took for granted: the freedom to travel about our country and be with friends and family. The freedom to go to your jobs and earn yourselves a living. Because we acted decisively through polices like “no jab, no job”, we can restore many of our freedoms. Tens of thousands of Fijians now also have a chance to return to their livelihoods, whether they work in hotels, restaurants, bars, tour companies, factories, or as drivers, roadside vendors, or other self-employed entrepreneurs,

From today, 10 October, 2021:

The curfew hours will be from 11 pm until 4 am. I’ve said this before, no matter when it starts, a curfew is not normal and cannot exist indefinitely. Once 90% of adults are fully vaccinated, the curfew hours will be from midnight to 4 am. And once we have the data to show that the virus no longer presents a serious public health threat, we will lift the curfew entirely.

Nearly all businesses, workplaces including public transportation can operate at 80% capacity to children and to fully vaccinated adults. The only exceptions to this relaxation are taverns, bars, and gaming venues. These are especially high-risk businesses due to the way they require people to crowd together. We’ll be announcing a set of protocols that take effect from 11 November that will allow these venues to safely re-open to fully vaccinated members of the public.

All venues must use our new VAX-Check tool to verify the vaccine status of their patrons –– it’s easy and free.

Many people in Fiji have been forced to stay away from home due to our need to prevent the virus from traveling from island to island, and my heart goes out to them. But I’m happy to announce today that anyone who is fully vaccinated can now travel to Vanua Levu by boat or by air with transport companies that are COVID-safe compliant –– such as Fiji Link. Travellers must register a negative COVID-19 test result on Rapid COVID-19 Test before travel. Upon arrival, they must immediately enter home quarantine for a period of seven days, but they will be home with family at last. Travel to the other islands including the outer islands will still be maintained under the current protocols and easing of restrictions will be implemented once there are increased rates of vaccination. So, I once again urge all those in the islands to please get fully vaccinated as quickly as possible.

We plan to drop any quarantine requirement for inter-island travel once more Fijians in Vanua Levu and other islands are fully vaccinated. From 11 November, we will open regular inter-island travel if –– and only if –– vaccination rates continue to steadily rise in the Northern Division and the maritime islands.

These are measures I am truly happy to announce on Fiji Day, because they are important steps toward reuniting us physically as one nation and one people.

We have no choice but to keep some measures in place for now. We will continue to enforce a mask mandate for all indoor public venues, on public transportation, and in crowded public settings — like markets, shopping malls, and bus stands, and the police remain empowered to issue spot fines to rule-breakers. Businesses that poorly enforce mask-wearing will be fined or shut down. In all other settings outside your home, mask-wearing is still strongly encouraged. But it won’t be required to wear a mask if you’re walking the seawall, going for a jog or walk to exercise, or having a picnic on the beach—and obviously, it’s not required for a gathering in your home.

I am also very happy to announce that we can start playing contact sports again, including rugby, netball, football, basketball, and cricket. And there will be no restrictions on the size of outdoor gatherings. Funerals, weddings, birthdays and other events can be held outdoors without restrictions on the number in attendance. Indoor venues can operate at 80% capacity, and everyone at the event must be fully-vaccinated. Again, let me remind everyone that mask-wearing is a must in all indoor public spaces and in crowded outdoor spaces.

Stadiums can also open. But spectators must be vaccinated and if sitting in close proximity at organised sporting events must wear masks.

Our ability to vaccinate adolescents from ages 15 to 17 now also gives us the opportunity to bring Years 12 and 13 students back to the classroom, and we will reopen classes for them beginning 1 November. The Ministry of Education will announce re-openings for other school years later, but we needed to give this group priority because many of these students are preparing for university or vocational training, and they are at an important point in their academic careers. So, I want to urge parents who have not made sure their 15, 16, or 17-year old is vaccinated to do so urgently so that they can be protected and be safe and get back to their normal schooling.

My fellow Fijians, this may almost sound like a full return to the COVID-Contained Fiji we knew earlier this year. It isn’t. If you think back to that time, you’ll remember why. Six months ago, most of us were not carrying masks with us everywhere we went. Too often, people were crowding where they should not have been. Most mobile phones did not have careFIJI installed. The virus felt a world away. It isn’t anymore. We are co-existing with the virus, not conquering it, and health experts now say we will have to do so.

Nearly every nation, including Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, has accepted that this virus will continue to circulate, like the common flu, and that vaccines are the most sustainable way forward. There will be cases of COVID-19 recorded in Fiji; we can count on that. But here is a critical fact: Vaccines will protect us. Vaccines ensure that cases –– when they do pop up –– are mild. Moving forward, we’ll be looking at rates of severe cases most carefully.

But as I’ve said, some Fijians are only partially-vaccinated, and a tiny minority are not vaccinated at all. What is more, we are still in the process of vaccinating our children, and we need to protect them. So we cannot afford a mad rush back to the carefree ways of living and doing business we once knew—at least not yet. We should be focussed on our adherence to rules that remain in place, not exploiting those that are being relaxed. Mask-wearing and physical distancing, and the use of the careFIJI app will continue to be firmly enforced in the settings I’ve just described.

Let me now issue a brief disclaimer. Nothing I am announcing is an irreversible decision. As you know, one of the constants during this pandemic has been change—change in what we know about the virus and how it spreads, change in the way we respond to new information, and changes in the restrictions we have had to endure based on the ebbs and flows of the pandemic.

We expect that widespread vaccination will protect us against the worst of the virus, but if we see serious outbreaks due to such things as new global variants that lead to concerning rates of hospitalisations, we will have no choice but to re-introduce restrictions. To sustain this recovery, we have to adapt to new ways of going about our lives. Unsafe habits like sharing the same bowl of grog or passing around the same cigarette butt should not happen. And not just when the cameras are rolling or when the police are watching. We have to actually change the way we think, we have to change our attitude and we have to change the way we do things, and the most important moments in that change are when no one is watching. My fellow Fijians, I am not the most important enforcer of our COVID-safe habits, and neither is the Commissioner of Police or his officers. It is not the Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services, either. It is each of you.

Being a COVID-safe country is good for us, and it is for our economy. As we look to open our border, we have to recognise that tourists don’t just magically appear in our hotels. We have to attract them. And our tourists in this new normal are health and price sensitive. Our Fijian Hospitality –– which is loved so fondly around the world –– has to adapt around a new and unrelenting focus on health and wellbeing as we plan to re-open Fiji as the safest destination for tourism and travel anywhere in the world.

Fiji’s international border for tourism will re-open firstly to a list of travel partners, which includes Australia, New Zealand, United States of America, United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Qatar, Germany, Spain, France, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan and most Pacific Island Countries and Territories. To come to Fiji, travellers must have spent at least 10 days in any of these places. This list isn’t fixed, Countries can be added as they achieve widespread vaccination of their populations.

Fiji will have a no-jab, no-fly policy. Travellers aged 18 years and above must be fully vaccinated with either the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or — and this is a new addition — the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. And before departing for Fiji, anyone aged 12 years and above must show a negative RT-PCR result for COVID-19 from a test taken within three days of departure. At Nadi Airport, immediately upon arrival, all travellers must download careFIJI onto their phones.

From tomorrow, fully vaccinated travellers from these countries will have an amended seven-day quarantine period in Fiji, after which they will be tested for COVID-19 before entering the community.

From 11 November, we’ll re-open our border to these travel-partner countries in earnest. There will be no traditional quarantine requirement. Instead, we’ll have different sets of protocols for tourists, for residents, and for those visiting friends and relatives. I’ll go through each group’s requirements.

Tourists from travel-partner countries will have no quarantine requirement from 11 November onward ahead of our official reopening on 1 December. Instead, after showing proof of vaccination and testing negative for the virus 72 hours prior to their departure, they will arrive in Fiji and head straight to their hotel.

Tourists will spend their first two days in Fiji on their hotel premises. They won’t be locked in a room. They can use all hotel amenities and get settled in. Then, a Rapid Diagnostic Test taken 48 hours after their arrival will grant them free reign of safe-travel areas, where they can take part in tours that allow our tour operators to make a living, shop for souvenirs, and eat at restaurants. We’re drawing up the borders of those travel-safe areas now. They will be large enough for tourists to enjoy the best of Fiji, but restrictive enough to protect areas with low vaccination coverage. This two-day period of hotel confinement is a measure that we expect to relax as more Fijians become fully vaccinated.

Hotels and tour operators in Fiji that welcome these tourists must all become Care Fiji Commitment Certified by our COVID-19 Risk Management Taskforce –– no exceptions.

The Care Fiji Commitment Certification will be the industry standard for COVID-safe tourism. It will require all hotels and excursions to meet the highest standards of comfort, health and safety.

Hotels must guarantee access to comfortable, well-supplied isolation facilities and medical care such as testing, routine staff-swabbing, and escalation protocols in the event that positive cases are detected by private medical practitioners affiliated with these businesses.
It requires hotels to make the arrangements and bear the costs of all COVID-19 testing.

Hotels must also employ Wellness Ambassadors who will take on the responsibility of managing and monitoring these protocols as well as training staff. These ambassadors must undergo training through a programme run by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, in conjunction with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
All of these measures will be checked during the certification process and regularly enforced thereafter. Breaches will cause hotels and tour operators to be shut down.

We’re counting on the full cooperation of our tourism industry to ensure that when our borders do open, they stay open.

Ideally, these travel-safe areas will include all of our outer islands, the entire Coral Coast, Taveuni, Kadavu, and all of the North. Unfortunately, there are some locations with low vaccination coverage. For the sake of their residents, these areas are being deemed “no-go zones”. That means no tourists allowed. We’ll be publishing a map every week showing where these areas are located. Everyone –– tourist or not –– will be discouraged from stopping in these communities to shop or purchase items by the roadside until more of their residents get the jab. If you live in one of these places, you must get vaccinated so that you can be part of our COVID-safe future. This will help you reap the full benefits of our recovery — it is about jobs, income and connection. Don’t wait another day to be vaccinated, be protected and be part of Fiji’s reopening.

For returning residents from travel-partner countries or those visiting friends and relatives, our protocols are bit different. These travellers will want to leave the travel-safe areas, and they can. After spending three days on a hotel premises in Fiji, a negative COVID-19 test result will allow these travellers to enter Fijian communities in any location.

Finally, for travellers from countries that are not yet travel-safe partners, fully vaccinated travellers must complete a ten-day stint in a traditional quarantine centre upon arrival in Fiji before a negative COVID-19 test result clears them to enter the community.

To our friends in Australia and New Zealand and to the residents of other countries we’re preparing to welcome, our message is simple: Fiji is ready to welcome you back to our shores. We are entirely confident in our ability to manage the risk associated with quarantine-free travel. Our planes are prepared. Our airports are adapted. I’ve seen their protocols first-hand. The Fiji Airways team have been awaiting this day for months. They are more than ready to fly you safely to our shores, and they have the highest possible SKYTRAX 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating and the Diamond certification by the Airline Passenger Experience Association or APEX to show for it. Every Fijian hotel and tour operator in Fiji will be certified under the “Care Fiji Commitment” program. And our people’s world-renowned hospitality is as wonderful as you all remember. Our first scheduled tourism flight to the country — on Fiji Airways — will be on 1 December.

Given that we are in the process of readjusting in the midst of so many changes, we will also put Daylight Savings Time on hold for this year. It will also make the reopening of scheduled commercial air service much smoother if we don’t have to be concerned shifting arrival and departure times, which may look like a simple thing but requires some significant logistical adjustments domestically and internationally.

That’s a broad overview. After this announcement, an expert panel with representatives from Fiji Airways, Tourism Fiji and our Hotel and Tourism Association, the Attorney-General, the Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, and the PS for Health and Medical Services will go over the specifics and take questions from the media.

In his Fiji Day address, His Excellency the President spoke of hope. He told us that while hope for a better tomorrow has remained elusive for nearly two years of unknowns and uncertainty due to the pandemic, we should find the courage to embrace hope, for we have earned it.

Today, we heed those words by doing one better than hoping for our best future; we are planning carefully for its arrival. But we need all of you with us to sustain this reopening and spur on our economic recovery. Jobs depend on it. Livelihoods depend on it. Businesses depend on it. Most of all, lives depend on our continued adherence to the measures we know can keep us safe.

Happy Fiji Day. God Bless you all.

(Source: The Fiji Government Website)

https://www.fiji.gov.fj/Media-Centre/Speeches/English/PM-BAINIMARAMA-S-COVID-19-ANNOUNCEMENT-10-10-21