A nurse stands outside Tamara Twomey hospital in Suva, Fiji, on June
25, 2021. A growing coronavirus outbreak in Fiji is stretching the
health system and devastating the economy. It has even prompted the
government to offer jobless people tools and cash to become farmers. (AP
Virus outbreak in Fiji batters economy, tests
By Aileen Torres-Bennett and Nick Perry
The Associated Press
SUVA, Fiji (AP) ó A growing coronavirus outbreak in Fiji is
stretching the health system and devastating the economy. It has even
prompted the government to offer jobless people tools and cash to become
The Pacific nation got through the first year of the pandemic without
any significant outbreaks and just two virus deaths.
But an outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant two months ago
has grown to the point where Fiji is adding about 250 new cases each
The government has so far resisted calls for a lockdown, in part to
try and protect an economy which had already shrunk by 19% last year
after international tourism evaporated.
Nearly half of all jobs were connected to tourism in the island
nation thatís known for its white-sand beaches, clear water, and
"Business-wise, itís very bad," said George Bernard, who owns a
business servicing fire extinguishers. He fears life will never be the
same. "Iím just trying to survive," he said.
A vaccination campaign is in full swing but has been hindered by
misinformation that vaccines are unsafe or even evil. So far, about 29%
of the population of just under 1 million have gotten their first dose,
while 2% have been fully vaccinated.
Bernard, who has heard some of the rumors, said he is in no rush to
get vaccinated. "Sometimes, I have second thoughts," he said.
Nazia Hussain has been selling vegetables from her roadside stall,
and she uses some of the profit to help her family members who lost
their jobs at supermarkets and stores in the capital, Suva.
"I have been doing this so I can save some money to do some shopping
for my family," she said. But business had been slow, and people had
little money to spend.
Hussain said sheíd believed the vaccine was a good thing and had
taken the jab herself.
Fijiís government has delivered nearly 40,000 packages of food
rations to people who have been isolating at home or are in targeted
lockdown areas. It has also allowed people to spend money early from
their retirement savings.
A new program starting next month offers people who have lost their
jobs and have access to rural land about $200 worth of tools, planting
materials, and cash.
"Applicant must be an aspiring crop farmer with an intention to take
on full-time farming as a core activity," the program states.
During the current outbreak, 15 people have died and nearly 7% of
those being tested are testing positive, indicating the virus is
continuing to spread. Australia and New Zealand have sent vaccines,
money, and medical teams to help Fijiís overburdened health system.
Fijiís government has directed people in some areas, including Suva,
to stay home and only go out for essential purposes. It has also imposed
a nighttime curfew.
James Fong, the countryís permanent secretary for health, told
reporters that a complete, nationwide lockdown would spark a
socio-economic catastrophe in Fiji.
But many worry that will happen anyway if the outbreak isnít brought
"Our numbers are going through the roof now. We must unite against
this virus," wrote Fred Wesley, the editor-in-chief of the Fiji Times.
"Together Fiji! United we must stand!"
Perry reported from Wellington, New Zealand.
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