COVID-19: Time for serious decisions

Vatuwaqa residents wait at the Kabir Temple during the COVID-19 vaccination program. Picture: ATU RASEA

BULA readers!

Today I thought I would put forward some constructive ideas for our government officials to consider and assess.

During this uncertain time valid suggestions need to be put forward as we continue to struggle to contain this deadly virus from spreading rapidly within our community.

I may not have the medical background in terms of understanding intricacies of the virus, but I certainly have a very good idea of how it can potentially be isolated and slowed down.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to take time to study and look at different models used worldwide to contain this pandemic and the most successful have been containment and isolation.

1) My initial thoughts when the virus reentered Fiji back in April 2021 was to have an immediate lockdown for 21 days and identify and isolate the infections, identify, and test all people of interest and also contain and test all possible hot spots, while having the population contained.

Yes it would have been painful in the short term, but I believe decisive action would have brought great results and we might not have been in the position we find ourselves today;

2) Unfortunately, today the infection rates have exploded since we have opened the two containment zones and merged them into one.

Cases in both zones are increasing at an alarming rate and movement has increased 10-fold.

Sometimes I am confused as the Ministry of Health recommendations are saying one thing and the actions taken are the opposite;

3) If our infection rates continue at this alarming pace we might have over 400 active cases soon, which will place immense stress on our hardworking front liners and medical infrastructure through no fault of their own;

4) A fast and effective 21-day nationwide lockdown could be the answer with giving let’s say just for arguments sake, $125 per week to low- income earners and low social economic adults, assuming there is 250,000 adults fitting this criteria for three weeks, which is approximately $94 million.

So a family with two adults will receive $250 per week during the lockdown period, enough to buy groceries and other provisions;

5) We have a vast civil service organisation plus well-structured NGOs and during this time they could be mobilised to offer further assistance such as delivering even more food plus other provisions and keeping the less fortunate in our society fed, safe and secure.

The financial cost of this exercise is nothing compared to the potential loss of lives, serious economic downturn,
mental and physical deterioration and mass unemployment and poverty that could occur over a longer period of time;

6) During the lockdown, vaccination teams could be ramped up and the nation could be vaccinated with up to 70 per cent of the adult population having at least its first dose and we would then be well on our way to achieving herd immunity.

While we are on this topic full respect to the vaccination teams on a job well done.

I believe we have vaccinated over 23 per cent of our population with their first shot since the vaccines were made available to us.

7) The lockdown period would give officials ample time to identify, test and isolate infections and hot spots, which at
present are running rampant.

This time frame would keep the public at a standstill making it perfect for health officials to expedite their work;

8) The public must also be given precise and correct information for them to digest and understand.

Indeed, Dr Fong represents a well-respected and trusted voice that the public have confidence in, maybe just one press conference each day at a sensible time say 7pm to simplify and go over the days statistics and take questions
from the media that the public wants answers to;

9) This public relations approach may calm our stressed and restless citizen as we are continuing to see everyday Government vs COVID-19, public vs Government, public vs COVID-19, Government vs Opposition, Government vs NGOs and the ugly cycle continues;

10) Will this lockdown be painful for the population in the short-term?

Yes, but in the long-term it would give effective results, firstly, saving lives of our citizens, secondly quickly kickstarting our economy, and thirdly normalising our daily lives definitely; and

11) Politics, hatred, ego, distrust, and who gets the credit for ideas should go out of the window as we are all in this together.

The more collective ideas we have as a nation, the more we will heal the distrust and build bridges.

This is far more important than self-interest and also self-preservation of one’s pride.

Conclusion

We have a tiny population of not even one million people, which means we can contain this virus if we make the hard decisions.

We can continue to go down this current path of non commitment and rising infections which started two months ago in April, and it could take even until December this year, which is another seven months before we have the required population vaccinated.

Or we can be brave and make the tough decisions to back ourselves more than 21 days to hit the virus hard and fast.

In my humble opinion, with infections rising day by day and the public at risk, the time may have come for some serious decisions.

 

  • AJAY BHAI AMRIT is a freelance writer. The views expressed in this article are his and does not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper.

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