Aussie neighbour plunged into one of the world's strictest lockdowns

·News Editor
·4-min read

Parts of Fiji have entered what could be the world's strictest Covid lockdown with residents not allowed to leave their home, even for food. 

Capital Suva and Nausori have been plunged into a 56-hour lockdown as health authorities work to trace close contacts of a garment factory worker who tested positive for the virus. 

Health authorities are focusing on two factories, with employees from both the factories travelling to and from work on the same transportation. 

In what could be one of the harshest lockdowns in the world, residents are warned to not leave their homes during the snap lockdown, with those in the Suva-Nausori zones to be delivered food if they run out.

All businesses, including supermarkets, will be shut for the duration of the lockdown.

This picture taken on April 24, 2021 shows residents wearing face masks walking through the fish market in the Fijian capital Suva.
People in Suva and Nausori are warned not to leave their homes. Source: Getty

"Those living in Suva and in Nausori, we have all been through this before – we know what it means. The Suva-Nausori Lockdown Zone will be under curfew for at least 56 hours," Fiji's Health and Medical Service Secretary Dr James Fong said in a statement. 

"No one should leave their homes. I'll say that again, within the lockdown zone, no one, not parents, not breadwinners, not children. no one should leave their homes.

"The police will be enforcing that movement restriction. Without Ministry approval you can only move out from your home for medical emergencies."

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Dr Fong said lockdowns were a measure of last resort but it was a necessary action with 877 factory workers needing to be contacted. 

Out of 321 already tested, no positive cases had been reported. 

"There are still hundreds of employees we need to contact," Dr Fong said. 

"We cannot waste another minute locating the rest of them."

Covid spike following 'superspreader' event

Suva already entered a 14-day lockdown on Monday as the Pacific Island nation battled to contain a Covid-19 spike following a "superspreader" funeral event. 

Around 100,000 people in the city must stay in containment zones and non-essential businesses are shuttered after the first community coronavirus cases in 12 months were detected. 

A soldier contracted the virus at a quarantine facility and is believed to have transmitted it to a maid, who then exposed up to 500 people at a funeral.

Dr Fong said four new cases then emerged over last weekend. 

"Three of the cases involved persons who attended the funeral that we have identified as a superspreader event, including a husband and wife who circulated through the community," Dr Fong said.

Security officers man a checkpoint at a junction in the Fijian capital Suva.
Parts of Fiji have been plunged into a snap 56-hour lockdown. Source: Getty

It is not clear how the fourth person, a woman from the outskirts of Suva, became infected.

"She and her husband have been placed in quarantine, but prudence requires us to treat this case as a possible community transmission," Dr Fong said.

"Because we cannot yet pin down the movements of these people and identify all their contacts, we are forced to take strict precautionary measures."

Fiji has largely contained the virus through strict isolation measures and border controls, recording fewer than 100 cases and just two deaths in a population of 930,000.

New cases jeopardise travel bubble

The emergence of community transmission is a blow for Fiji's hopes of opening quarantine-free travel bubbles with Australia and New Zealand, the source of most of its international visitors.

Fiji's economy is heavily dependent on tourism, which has all but evaporated during the pandemic.

Monthly visitor numbers were down up to 99 percent from pre-pandemic levels, according to government statistics.

Australia and New Zealand opened a trans-Tasman bubble a week ago allowing quarantine-free travel between the two countries — although New Zealand has since suspended contact with Western Australia due to a Covid-19 outbreak in Perth.

with AFP

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