Dr Fong: Fiji must open borders as soon as possible to reduce socioeconomic impact

Acting Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services Dr James Fong responds to queries during the National budget consultation in Nadi. Picture: REINAL CHAND

Acting Health and Medical Services Ministry permanent secretary Dr James Fong says Fiji must open its borders as soon as possible to reduce the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19.

Speaking at the National Budget consultations in Nadi this week, he said a lot more people could die if borders remained closed and jobs and livelihoods continued to be affected.

“We need to move forward to improve livelihoods,” he said.

“If we don’t, a lot more health effects will come and a lot more people might die from diabetes or leptospirosis because they will simply come late to the hospital. And this is because they won’t have bus fare to come, so these are the long-term effects we are worried about.”

Dr Fong said the Health and Medical Services Ministry was more than capable of handling any potential risks associated with the pandemic, however, he called for tourism operators to ensure all their staff members were tested and regularly screened once tourists began to arrive.

He said the ministry had worked with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and visited the airport, quarantine facilities in Nadi “and we have revamped measures we have been applying for some time now”.

“Hotel workers would be considered as high risk groups and hotel management should make sure all staff were screened and thermal-checked as well.

“They must maintain an attendance roll and check on anyone who is absent for the day and the reasons for the absenteeism.

“If the absentee reports COVID-19 like symptoms, our team is ready to reach out to them as soon as possible and to contain the family.”

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