Editorial comment – Good news, but stay focused

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama makes his official announcement on the update of COVID-19 to the media as Commissioner of Police Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho looks on from the background during the press conference at Suvavou House in Suva on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

We are COVID-19-free! Yay!

The Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama announced this yesterday after tests on the three remaining COVID-19 cases returned negative.

He said the fact Fiji had not recorded a new case in 45 days – which was over three full incubation periods for the virus – granted a high level of confidence that the virus had been wholly eliminated within our borders.

Overcoming this challenge, he said, was a defining moment for Fiji.

“But even as we welcome this victory for our people, we must continue to pray for and support those around the world who are still suffering from this pandemic’s devastation,” he said.

Mr Bainimarama said there was always a chance new cases would be confirmed as Fijians continued to return from overseas to be reunited with their families.

They would, however, be contained by their mandatory, closely-monitored hotel quarantine, eliminating the risk of community transmission, he said.

The announcement is great news.

It comes at a time when we need positive news.

The negative impact of the virus has torn at the very heart of the global economy.

It has pushed nations to the brink of disaster, and a depressed state.

It is unprecedented indeed.

So in the face of all that is gloomy, we find joy and confidence in this announcement.

We acknowledge all the frontline workers who have been an integral part of this fight.

They deserve our most sincere appreciation.

We acknowledge all those who led from the front, making calls that were good for us all, right down to those who worked behind the scenes.

We also acknowledge every Fijian who took the initiative to be part of the solution, and adhered strictly to social distancing rules.

You were part of a great achievement. Thank you.

For what it is worth though, we can never let our guards down, even with this announcement.

The fact that the virus continues to impact nations around the world, and there is still no vaccine known, means we must remain vigilant.

We must stay focused and proactive.

We are now past one hurdle.

The next big one is going to come when and if we ever open our borders.

That will mean a whole new set of issues and challenges to contend with.

Now that we know we have successfully contained the virus, and kept Fiji clean, the next challenge is putting in place measures that will ensure our people are safe when our border opens up.

It has to happen eventually, for the sake of our economy.

The roll-on impact of that happening will aid in bringing back some semblance of order, and perhaps assist in churning our domestic economy.

Far too many people have lost their jobs.

Too many people are working reduced hours and thousands have been forced to go on leave without pay. Many families have been shattered, their livelihood torn to shreds.

Thousands of people are now wondering how they are going to meet mortgage payments.

Many more are now worried about having a roof over their heads, and trying to put food on the table. They are worried about the future and what it has in store for them.

This is the harsh reality of our lives now.

We cannot afford to be impacted by a second wave.

That means we must stay on course.

We must adhere to rules that will keep the pandemic at bay.

We cannot afford to slacken down!

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