Covid-19

Now Suva moves to lockdown

Two new cases of Covid-19 have been identified in Fiji, prompting a lockdown of its capital. Teuila Fuatai reports.

Fijian health authorities are scrambling to identify close contacts of its latest two Covid-19 cases. The couple, from Nabua, Suva, appear unrelated to the country’s previous five.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama on Thursday confirmed a 21-year-old woman and her 33-year-old husband, both hairdressers, tested positive for the virus after developing symptoms on Saturday March 28.

Bainimarama called the cases “the most serious developments-to-date”.

“There is a high risk these patients have infected others as they not only lived in close contact with other families in their settlement, but served in very public-facing jobs.

“We need to respond as if both individuals were working while showing symptoms, and take assertive action to contain the virus,” he said.

The couple were in isolation at Navua Hospital and in a stable condition. Their daughter, and another close contact, both of whom lived with the couple, were also in isolation. Authorities also said they were waiting on test results for the identified close contact as the individual had recently returned from India.

Similar to measures taken in Lautoka, where the country’s first cases were identified, Suva has been sealed off from the rest of the country for a 14-day period.

Beginning at 5am on Friday, checkpoints around the greater capital area would control the flow of movement in and out of Suva.

“Only those travelling for medical purposes will be allowed through checkpoints”, Bainimarama said.

Within Suva, essential businesses like food shops, petrol stations and pharmacies would continue operating during the lockdown. Banks would also remain open. Restaurants were also allowed to operate as long the number of people dining did not exceed 20, and physical distancing rules were observed.

“[They] must focus on takeaways and delivery orders,” Bainimarama said.

A Suva City Council employee wearing a mask and overseeing the physical distancing measures at the Suva Bus Stand. Photo: Eliki Nukutabu, Fiji Times

Nationally, the country’s evening curfew has also been extended. From today, it would begin two hours earlier at 8pm. Implemented on Monday, the curfew prohibits non-essential travel until 5am. The army and police have more than 100 checkpoints around Fiji to enforce it. Yesterday, police said 165 people had been charged with breaches during its first three nights.

Bainimarama said while many Fijians were taking appropriate precautions, too many continued to ignore important public health safety measures.

“Stop sharing bilos and takis. Stop shaking hands, touching, and embracing. Stop the touch rugby matches and other close contact with others,” he said.

He also warned a more heavy-handed approach, and nationwide lockdown, would occur if people continued to flout rules.

“We’re closely watching the behaviour of all Fijians, and if these habits aren’t changed on your own accord, we aren’t afraid to scale up our enforcement to contain Covid-19. We can achieve this one of two ways - by your willing cooperation, or by heavy-handed action.

“For every Fijian, this will be much easier if you follow our directives –– but if not, we will be forced to crack down with a nationwide 24-hour curfew,” Bainimarama said.

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