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Opinion

Who is to blame, Prime Minister?

Prime Minister Bainimarama should stop blaming the people and take full responsibility himself for the dire situation in the country regarding the escalating spread of the virus.

In a statement, he said the virus was escalating because people were not following proper health protocols.

This is simply passing the buck. Police statistics for the whole (last) week for the entire nation show that only 50 people were charged for breach of health protocols. Of this 41 were for failure to wear a mask and 9 for social gathering. This is for the entire country!

This actually shows that the majority of the people are taking the health protocols seriously and abiding by the rules.

Let’s face it. It is your government’s utter stubbornness and failure to impose a lockdown to contain the virus, which has led to the crisis we are facing today. There have been many impassioned pleas for a lockdown from politicians, religious, business and community leaders, and concerned individuals. The PM ignored them all, arguing that would destroy our economy.

Another serious mistake was to reverse the restriction of movement between containment zones and to allow factories and businesses to open. This is when the virus proliferated out of control.

The responsibility for this goes to Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Commerce Minister Faiyaz Koya. It was obvious that Health Permanent Secretary Dr James Fong was very reluctant to adopt this policy, now that the harm has been done, the two Ministers have retired into the background leaving Fong to struggle with the mess they created.

The latest daily Covid figure has reached 1220 new cases and it’s all over the island. Our health personnel have been stretched to the uttermost and are themselves getting infected.

Government health care facilities, in a deplorable state at the best of times, have simply collapsed. We do not have the facilities, the equipment or the resources to fight this battle.

Fijian nurse administers COVID vaccine. Photo: WHO

Had it not been for the very generous help in cash and kind from our neighbours Australia and New Zealand, we can just imagine the catastrophe we would be facing as a nation.

New Zealand statistician at the University of Canterbury, Professor Michael Plank has confirmed the worst. Fiji has now overtaken the spread of the virus seen in India at its peak.

The numbers in Fiji are in fact higher than India, taken on a population basis. “The situation in Fiji is grim by comparison,” he told Fiji Village.

Another NZ professor, an epidemiologist had earlier warned that “home isolation” was a wrong policy as it simply allowed the virus to spread to family members and neighbours in a close knit society like ours.

But Fiji is resorting to this “wrong policy” because we have no other option. Our health facilities have been so badly run down over the last 15 years, we just cannot cope with the escalating numbers.

People in isolation have been abandoned to fend for themselves, because the Health Ministry does NOT have the personnel to check on them and monitor the situation on a daily basis, as they had promised to do.

Doctor Fong says: “Sadly, people with severe COVID-19 are still dying at home or they are coming to a medical facility in the late stages of severe illness.” He warns there will be more severe cases.

This, Dr. Fong, shows the failure of government’s health system. One cannot blame these people for coming into the clinics/hospitals at the late stage because the Ministry has failed to follow up on cases in home isolation and carry out daily monitoring, as promised.

The Prime Minister as head of government must accept full responsibility for the current catastrophe we are facing.

Even NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Arden pointed out that in her country lockdowns had “saved lives and the economy”.

Here in Fiji we are putting lives at risk just to save the economy – and achieving neither.

Mahendra Chaudhry is the leader of the Fiji Labour party and former Prime Minister of Fiji.

The Pacific Advocate has made many approaches to the Fijian Government including requesting their response to the claims made in this opinion piece, but has consistently received no response. We have also offered the Government the opportunity for a similar unedited piece so they can talk directly to the people of Fiji.

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