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Bula vinaka and a very good af­ter­noon to you all. On the 19th of March, Fiji con­firmed our first case of the coro­n­avirus. Fi­nally faced with the same en­emy we had watched dev­as­tate highly-de­vel­oped na­tions, we put fear aside and found faith in ac­tion. That same day, we an­nounced a com­plete lock­down of the Lau­toka area. In the com­ing weeks, we locked down the greater Suva area and parts of Vanua Levu as new cases were con­firmed. Na­tion­wide, we de­ci­sively rolled out pub­lic mea­sures –– backed by strict en­force­ment –– to stop COVID in its tracks. We traced ev­ery known con­tact of ev­ery known case. And –– as the virus surged overseas –– Fiji slowly but surely broke ev­ery known chain of trans­mis­sion in the coun­try.

It’s now 64 days since we con­firmed our last new case of the virus and well over two weeks since the last of our pa­tients reg­is­tered full re­cov­er­ies and re­turned home to their fam­i­lies. With no deaths recorded, Fiji has also led the world in the most re­li­able met­rics of test­ing. Our progress has come de­spite con­tend­ing with pa­tients who went for weeks with­out show­ing symp­toms.

But even with all we’ve learned through the long and dif­fi­cult months be­hind us, the world’s lead­ing med­i­cal ex­perts will tell you; the un­knowns of this virus still vastly out­weigh the knowns, and what we do know is con­stantly evolv­ing.

That’s all to say: zero cases does not mean zero risks. So, rush­ing back to life as we knew it can’t hap­pen. But nei­ther can we shut Fiji off from the world for­ever, lock­ing our peo­ple out of jobs and par­a­lyz­ing en­tire in­dus­tries, like tourism.

Rather, as one of the few na­tions on Earth to reg­is­ter such re­sound­ing suc­cess against the coro­n­avirus, it has come to Fiji to light the way to­wards a post-COVID so­ci­ety –– to show the world how we can safely live again. Not by blindly stum­bling ahead, but by con­fi­dently step­ping for­ward, vig­i­lant to both risks and op­por­tu­ni­ties.

So, while some of you may be tun­ing in to hear about an eas­ing of re­stric­tions, I’m not here to talk about “re­turn­ing to nor­mal”. To­day marks the start of a new nor­mal to adapt to the new world we now live in.

Much like our cam­paign to adapt Fiji to the ris­ing seas and stronger storms brought by cli­mate change, we must build our re­silience to this virus from the ground up, not with sea­walls of stone or con­crete, but through the way each of us live our lives. Above all, this “new nor­mal” de­mands so­cial adap­ta­tion. We need to set a new stan­dard of care among our peo­ple for their com­mu­ni­ties, their fam­i­lies, their rel­a­tives, neigh­bours and es­pe­cially, for our most vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens –– those most at-risk from COVID-19.

Phase 2: COVID-Safe Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery

To­day, we’ll be an­nounc­ing “Phase 2” of Fiji’s COVID-Safe Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery, lay­ing out a frame­work for long-term changes in how we can get peo­ple back in their jobs, how we re­vi­talise our in­dus­tries, how we wel­come vis­i­tors back to our shores and how we pro­gres­sively re­build Fiji’s econ­omy to its full, his­toric strength, all while keep­ing health at the fore­front of ev­ery de­ci­sion.

To keep pace with the ever-chang­ing state of global affairs and re­main in line with the best avail­able med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion, this frame­work is flex­i­ble. New rules can come into play at any time, as has been the case from day one.

This af­ter­noon, I’ll be giv­ing you a gen­eral over­view of Phase 2. But all of the de­tails of each phase, in­clud­ing ev­ery new busi­ness pol­icy and border con­trol, will be pub­lished in full on­line –– be sure to look to the Fi­jian Gov­ern­ment’s web­site and Face­book page for more. A press brief­ing will be held later this af­ter­noon with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from our en­tire COVID-Safe Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery Team, in­clud­ing our health ex­perts, to pro­vide fur­ther de­tail and an­swer any ques­tions you may have.

Our Min­istry of Econ­omy has been work­ing in­ti­mately with the Min­istries of Health and Med­i­cal Ser­vices, Com­merce, Trade, Tourism and Trans­port, busi­ness houses and var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions to guide this COVID-Safe frame­work, and will con­tinue to do so in over­ar­ch­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with our med­i­cal ex­perts to en­sure health com­pli­ance in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

careFIJI App

We’ve tied this next phase of our COVID re­sponse to the launch of the careFIJI App, a pow­er­ful new tool that al­lows us to no­tify users if they are ex­posed to the coro­n­avirus. This App forms the foun­da­tion of Phase 2 of our re­cov­ery, and of the new nor­mal we’re work­ing to cre­ate.

As you know, the prac­tice of con­tact trac­ing was crit­i­cal to Fiji’s suc­cess in break­ing the chains of COVID-trans­mis­sion. But much of that ef­fort led by our con­tact trac­ing teams re­lied on peo­ple’s mem­o­ries.

I’d ask all those watch­ing to try and think of ev­ery per­son they’ve spent 15 min­utes or more with over the past 28 days–– it’s dif­fi­cult, isn’t it? careFIJI makes it easy.

We’ll be play­ing a video af­ter my

re­marks to ex­plain ex­actly how it works. But, es­sen­tially, careFIJI uses Blue­tooth tech­nol­ogy on our phones to make con­tact trac­ing much faster and more ac­cu­rate. It’s built on the very same tech­nol­ogy that both Sin­ga­pore and Aus­tralia have used to launch their own con­tact-trac­ing apps.

So, God for­bid an­other COVID­pos­i­tive per­son is among the pub­lic, if they have careFIJI in­stalled, this App will al­low the Min­istry of Health and Med­i­cal Ser­vices to quickly no­tify any other careFIJI users who have been in con­tact with that in­di­vid­ual.

If used by enough peo­ple, this will “break the chain” in a faster, more highly-tar­geted way. This would al­low Fiji to limit the need for broader pub­lic health mea­sures, like lock­downs.

And careFIJI will do far more than make our con­tact trac­ing more ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive. It will in­still a sense of con­fi­dence in other coun­tries –– show­ing the world, and our tourists, that Fiji is per­haps the safest na­tion on Earth to live, work, and hol­i­day in. It will bring back lost jobs of our friends and neigh­bours. It will re­store lost in­come, and put us back on track to eco­nomic great­ness. That peace of mind has the po­ten­tial to be the most pow­er­ful mar­ket­ing cam­paign in Fi­jian his­tory.

But the suc­cess of this App ul­ti­mately rests in the hearts and hands of ev­ery Fi­jian. So I can­not stress enough –– the eas­i­est way that you can help save lives and liveli­hoods, and to show that you care for Fiji’s re­cov­ery, is to down­load careFIJI and keep your Blue­tooth turned on at all times.

If you have a smart­phone, open Google Play­store or the Ap­ple App store, search for careFIJI –– you’ll see the same logo like those around me now –– down­load it now, and switch on your Blue­tooth. And just like that, you’ve al­ready done your part to help re­turn to a new nor­mal. Be­cause the App uses Blue­tooth and not data for its core func­tion, careFIJI it­self takes al­most no data to use once it’s in­stalled. careFIJI is de­signed to be as easy, se­cure, and has­sle-free as pos­si­ble.

And if you’re wor­ried about the data this App will use to in­stall, don’t be. It takes around 10 megabytes to in­stall the App. Once you do, thanks to an agree­ment struck by the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, both Voda­fone and Dig­i­cel have agreed to re­im­burse their cus­tomers with ten times that amount –– 100 megabytes –– free of charge. Our dig­i­talFIJI team has de­vel­oped a ded­i­cated web­site which pro­vides ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion about the careFIJI app. You can visit the web­site data-free by go­ing to www­dot-carefiji-dot-dig­i­talfiji-dot-gov­dot-fj.

Most of our pub­lic in­ter­ac­tions take place in the work­place, wher­ever that may be. Es­pe­cially for those of us work­ing in­doors for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time, our places of work can pose a se­ri­ous risk, that’s why work­ing Fi­jians must down­load careFIJI.

Gov­ern­ment is lead­ing that push through ex­am­ple by man­dat­ing that all users of gov­ern­ment is­sued phones, mem­bers of the dis­ci­plined forces, and users with phones is­sued by gov­ern­ment-funded statu­tory bod­ies, down­load the careFIJI App.

En­ti­ties in which the gov­ern­ment holds an in­ter­est and so­cial wel­fare re­cip­i­ents, other gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance ben­e­fi­cia­ries as well as civil ser­vants should all down­load careFIJI. We’ll also be work­ing closely with our pri­vate sec­tor part­ners, par­tic­u­larly those in key eco­nomic sec­tors with large staff num­bers, to en­cour­age up­take of the App.

But that’s not all the rigour Phase 2 de­mands. We’re ask­ing ev­ery busi­ness, of ev­ery size and across ev­ery in­dus­try, to be lead­ers in your re­spec­tive fields by draw­ing up their own game­plans for run­ning safe, COVID-proofed op­er­a­tions. Ev­ery busi­ness in Fiji has the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ad­her­ing to our COVID-safe pro­to­cols, which have been com­pre­hen­sively out­lined, by in­dus­try, in the frame­work that will be posted on­line.

We aren’t send­ing the Po­lice to ev­ery work­place in the coun­try to en­force th­ese poli­cies, this strat­egy re­lies on self-reg­u­la­tion –– it re­lies on busi­nesses step­ping up and do­ing the right thing for their cus­tomers and for their coun­try. But if busi­nesses aren’t com­ply­ing, we won’t hes­i­tate to go back on the eas­ing of re­stric­tions.

Na­tion­wide cur­few re­mains In Phase 2, our na­tion­wide cur­few will re­main in ef­fect, but to al­low for more eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and free­dom of move­ment, it will now be en­forced from 11pm and lifted at 4am. This is not just a mat­ter of health, but a mat­ter of pub­lic well­be­ing. We’ve heard from count­less Fi­jians, ask­ing that the cur­few be kept, say­ing that they feel safer with th­ese re­stric­tions.

For that rea­son, ef­fec­tive from to­day, Mon­day, the 22nd of June, the Fiji Po­lice Force will be en­forc­ing cur­few from the hours of 11pm un­til 4am. That re­vised cur­few will re­main in ef­fect un­til fur­ther no­tice. For many of the same rea­sons, night­clubs will stay closed.

At the mo­ment, gath­er­ings of more than 20 peo­ple are banned. We had good rea­son to do so, as mass gath­er­ings have been epi­cen­tres of out­breaks the world over. From Mon­day, the 22nd of June, we’ll be re­lax­ing this re­stric­tion, al­low­ing for gath­er­ings up to 100 in­di­vid­u­als. For the time be­ing, this 100-per­son limit will ap­ply to wed­dings, fu­ner­als, cafes, restau­rants, con­fer­ences and other com­mu­nity gath­er­ings. And all through­out Fiji, we need to start gath­er­ing not as large, un­con­trolled masses, but as self-con­tained group­ings.

I know our COVID re­stric­tions have been dif­fi­cult for Fi­jians of all faiths, as we of­ten look to our reli­gion to find com­fort in times of con­tention and suf­fer­ing. Mean­while, across the world, we’ve seen largescale out­breaks start in houses of wor­ship, as fam­i­lies and friends greet, gather, and em­brace –– and we couldn’t let the same fate be­fall Fiji.

That’s why, over the past months, I’ve been proud to see Fi­jian Chris­tians, Hin­dus, Mus­lims, and all

wor­ship­pers find new ways to con­nect with God, even as some of the holi­est days of re­li­gious cal­en­dars have passed. I thank re­li­gious lead­ers and their con­gre­ga­tions for their un­der­stand­ing and lead­er­ship through th­ese times, and in the weeks ahead, we will look to you for con­tin­ued guid­ance as we ad­just to the new nor­mal.

Houses of wor­ship

Ef­fec­tive from Fri­day, the 26th of June, we’re al­low­ing houses of wor­ship to re-open their doors to 100 wor­ship­pers at a time. Start­ing to­mor­row, over the next three to four days, the Min­istry of Health and Med­i­cal Ser­vices will be meet­ing with re­li­gious lead­ers to talk about how the “new nor­mal” will look in houses of wor­ship, and how they can adapt to pro­tect Fi­jians who come to them.

Sci­ence shows se­ri­ous risks in houses of wor­ship be­cause of the close prox­im­ity, the in­ti­macy of con­gre­ga­tions and prac­tices such as in­door singing –– so we’ll be work­ing hand-in-hand with our churches, mosques, and tem­ples to ex­plain and limit th­ese unique chal­lenges.

Be­cause now more than ever, houses of wor­ship need to be not a source of risk, but of refuge.

We are ask­ing each church, mosque, and tem­ple to share the bur­den of re­spon­si­bil­ity, and look af­ter your wor­ship­pers with the same duty of care that is at the cen­tre of all our ef­forts. Set up hand-wash­ing sta­tions.

Limit phys­i­cal con­tact, en­cour­age dis­tanc­ing mea­sures and con­sider hold­ing more ser­vices to en­sure ad­her­ence to the 100-per­son limit.

And please, as the world con­tin­ues to grap­ple with the pan­demic and Fi­jians find them­selves out of work, pray for re­lief and con­tin­ued pro­tec­tion from COVID-19.

Schools re­open

There are over 238,000 stu­dents in Fi­jian schools across the coun­try. That’s larger than the pop­u­la­tion of many of Pa­cific Is­land coun­tries.

We didn’t rush back to re­open­ing schools for good rea­son. Med­i­cal ex­perts ini­tially sus­pected chil­dren were some of the fastest spread­ers of the virus. The lat­est stud­ies have shown chil­dren aren’t the su­per­spread­ers the ex­perts ini­tially thought they were, but they are not com­pletely risk-free. So, we needed to re­think the way we ed­u­cate our chil­dren, by COVID-proof­ing our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem as much as pos­si­ble.

Our plan to re­open schools has catered for a re­aligned school cur­ricu­lum, en­sur­ing that all of Fiji’s schools are on the same page. It sim­ply wouldn’t be fair for chil­dren in dif­fer­ent schools to be dis­ad­van­taged just be­cause of where they live, and which school they at­tend, whether pub­lic or pri­vate.

That’s why we’ve taken the time to ad­dress our re-open­ing for the re­main­der of the 2020 school year with par­tic­u­lar care, and will be re­sum­ing ed­u­ca­tion in two stages:

To safely ease back into the aca­demic cal­en­dar and give our school lead­ers the space to ad­just, Year 12 and Year 13 stu­dents in our sec­ondary schools will start classes on Tues­day, 30 June.

This will al­low them to get back into pre­par­ing for their ex­ams –– a top pri­or­ity to avoid longer-term dis­rup­tion. Ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions as well can open for face-to-face classes from 30 June.

The rest of the pri­mary and sec­ondary schools –– as well as early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion –– will open one week later, on Mon­day, the 6th of July.

Prin­ci­pals, teach­ers, and school man­age­ment will be re­spon­si­ble for COVID-proof­ing their schools, prac­tis­ing the healthy habits that we have em­braced in ev­ery cor­ner of COVID-safe eco­nomic re­cov­ery. Fur­ther de­tails will be out­lined by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion at the press brief­ing.

Sport­ing venues, events

Gyms, fit­ness cen­tres and swim­ming pools –– both pub­lic pools and those at ho­tels –– will be per­mit­ted to re­open from Mon­day, the 22nd of June. Op­er­a­tors must keep th­ese fa­cil­i­ties clean and main­tain con­tact trac­ing in­for­ma­tion for ev­ery per­son who uses their fa­cil­i­ties by check­ing for careFIJI in­stal­la­tion and keep­ing a man­ual log for those who don’t have smart­phones.

Con­tact sports sim­ply weren’t safe when com­mu­nity-based trans­mis­sion posed a threat. With Fiji’s out­break con­tained, we can safely re­claim our sta­tus as the beat­ing heart of world rugby, and wel­come back foot­ball, box­ing and all other con­tact sports as well.

Fi­jians are a sport­ing peo­ple and I know how much it means to fans across Fiji to at­tend games and see our ath­letes in ac­tion.

We’ll be per­mit­ting live sport­ing events to re­sume, but with re­stric­tions.

Our for­mal in­door and out­doors sport­ing venues can host sport­ing events with spec­ta­tors at 50 per cent ca­pac­ity, so long as phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing is main­tained within the venue. For in­for­mal sports events at the com­mu­nity level, the 100-per­son limit ap­plies.

We’ll re­view this pol­icy in the very near fu­ture. Again, we look for­ward to the co­op­er­a­tion of sport­ing event or­gan­is­ers and –– I can’t stress this enough –– all spec­ta­tors must down­load the careFIJI App.

If any ath­lete at any level of play is feel­ing un­well, stay home. Of­fi­cials will be re­spon­si­ble for symp­tom screen­ings, and should not al­low any­one who is sick to play. With the gyms back open and all sports open for play, I hope more Fi­jians take ad­van­tage of th­ese op­por­tu­ni­ties to take greater own­er­ship over their health and well­be­ing. This is a virus that preys on those with un­der­ly­ing health con­di­tions, like NCDs. Health­ier peo­ple han­dle it bet­ter and re­cover more re­li­ably.

I urge every­one to use this re­open­ing to recom­mit to fit­ness. By do­ing so, we do some of the most im­por­tant work of step­ping up our peo­ple’s re­silience to COVID-19.

Cin­e­mas re­open­ing

Our cin­e­mas will also be able to re­open their doors from to­mor­row, but un­der var­i­ous con­di­tions. Cin­e­mas will be lim­ited to 50 per cent of ca­pac­ity. All group­ings of the­atre-go­ers –– friends and fam­ily mem­bers who at­tend and sit to­gether –– will be re­quired to sit 1.5 me­tres apart from other group­ings or in­di­vid­u­als. In be­tween each show­ing, ser­vice ar­eas need to be wiped down, seats deep cleaned and pub­lic ar­eas must be thor­oughly sani­tised.

And if you’re go­ing to go to the movies, be pre­pared to quickly show your careFIJI App.

Relook­ing at our bor­ders

Our med­i­cal ex­perts and econ­o­mists agree: we can’t risk the health and eco­nomic losses of keep­ing our bor­ders shut for­ever. In­stead, we will care­fully re­open our bor­ders in a highly-con­trolled man­ner.

By slowly and safely bring­ing back vi­tal tourism rev­enue to Fiji, we will in fact be sav­ing lives –– the long-term cost of com­plete clo­sures and un­em­ploy­ment would risk do­ing im­mense harm to Fi­jians’ men­tal and phys­i­cal health. This is the best way to eco­nom­i­cally ad­just to the “new nor­mal” in a way that con­sid­ers all as­pects of Fi­jians’ well­be­ing.

As Fiji’s cases have dis­ap­peared, and cases dwin­dle in Aus­tralia and New Zealand, we’ve been in­volved in se­ri­ous dis­cus­sions about spurring eco­nomic re­cov­ery through the re­open­ing of re­gional travel.

To lay the ground­work for in­te­grated pub­lic health ap­proaches crit­i­cal to the re­open­ing of our bor­ders, Fiji’s lead­ing med­i­cal ex­perts –– Dr Aal­isha, Dr Fong and Dr Tu­dravu –– are in talks with Pro­fes­sor Paul Kelly, Aus­tralia’s Deputy Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer, and are li­ais­ing with Pro­fes­sor Michael Baker, the Head of the Univer­sity of Otago’s Pub­lic Health De­part­ment. This in­ter­na­tional, doc­tor-to-doc­tor col­lab­o­ra­tion will con­tinue as we forge for­ward.

Bula Bub­ble

While Aus­tralia and New Zealand work out their Trans-Tas­man bub­ble, Fiji’s equal –– or ar­guably, greater –– suc­cess against the virus puts us in a po­si­tion to take the lead in the Pa­cific. We’re work­ing on our own bub­ble –– a “Bula Bub­ble”, be­tween Fiji, New Zealand and Aus­tralia.

Work­ing with Fiji Air­ways and Tourism

Voreqe Bain­i­marama ■ State­ment on COVID-Safe Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery by Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama

Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama dur­ing the an­nounce­ments on June 21, 2020.

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