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No plan to quarantine travellers to Fiji abroad: govt

Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama at the COP23 Fiji conference in Bonn, Germany on the 12th of November 2017. COP23 if organized by UN Framework Convention for Climate Change. Fiji holds presidency over this meeting in Bonn. (Photo by Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto). Photo: AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SUVA, Aug 14, 2020, RNZ. Fiji’s health ministry says all visitors arriving in the country will continue to undergo Covid-19 tests and 14 days quarantine in a government facility, Radio New Zealand reported.

This is in response to reports the government is looking to New Zealand and Australia where travellers can complete their isolation and be exempt from quarantine when they arrive in Fiji.

But the permanent secretary for Health, Dr James Fong, said this is not the case as Fiji has not identified nor certified any facility abroad to quarantine travellers heading its way.

Dr Fong said the only recognised quarantine authorities for Fiji are the health ministry and the military.

“Nobody is eligible for quarantine in Australia and New Zealand because we have not recognized any institution. They all have to quarantine in Fiji. Quarantining in Australia and New Zealand will have to be part of ongoing negotiations so we can assign that authority to institutions we recognize.”

Dr James Fong said no discussions have been held with either New Zealand or Australia on the matter.

He said any recognition of quarantine outside Fiji’s borders would require bilateral agreement.

“The problem is we haven’t had any concrete negations with Australia and New Zealand for us to be able to have an institution that we can recognize and accredit as people who can have the authority to tell us the quarantine period served in that country was safe.”

Fiji’s Health Ministry said the recent outbreak of Covid-19 cases in New Zealand’s largest city is expected to heighten health discussions in the region.

On Thursday, Fiji confirmed its seventh case, a 61 year-old man who tested positive for the virus following his return from the United States.

Health Minister Ifereimi Waqainabete said while Fiji does not have any community transmission, Fijians must learn from the situation in New Zealand by maintaining vigilance and adhere to the restrictions in place.

“If anything it’s a reminder to us that we continue to be in this new normal because we don’t have community transmission. But we need to understand that these measures that we’ve done from the beginning of the year such as the lockdowns and border quarantine that we have in place – have been able to bring us to where we are at the moment,” he said.

Dr Waqainabete said the pandemic has strengthened Fiji’s healthcare outreach as his staff continue to visit communities to engage in personal and hand-hygiene awareness campaigns.

And he said despite the outbreak of Covid cases in New Zealand this week, nothing had changed in Fiji’s efforts to address the pandemic.

Dr Waqainabete said the pandemic was an evolving situation and Fiji continued to make the necessary observations.

Meanwhile, non-Fiji nationals arriving in the country will have to fork out $US140 for a Covid-19 test.

The ministry said this would only apply in certain circumstances and not across the board.

Dr James Fong said this also applied to Fijians travelling abroad and need a test as a requirement for entry into other countries.

He said this was the practice around the world.

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