Decisions that matter

Nanise Selinia with plantains she sells at the Dreketi market stalls. Picture LUKE RAWALAI

When news of the novel coronavirus first hit the news, and the city of Wuhan in China went into overdrive to try and contain it, there were people who would have shrugged it off without a second thought.

It was first of all, in a city thousands of kilometres away from Fiji.

They couldn’t fathom how it could ever get here.

They would have shrugged off the virus, probably because of the distance and the fact that Wuhan, at the time, was relatively unheard of here in Fiji.

Sereana Driu, 64, had a vegetable stall business at the Dreketi market on Vanua Levu.

By the end of March, when we had our first case of COVID-19, and the subsequent lockdowns that followed, the Nakalou native began to feel the brunt of the impact of the virus when the inter-island ban was announced.

The intermittent shipping schedule between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu had a massive impact on food vendors at the Dreketi Shopping Centre in Macuata, Vanua Levu. Ms Driu assumed the impact of the virus was too far away to have any implications on her or her village.

“Things changed very quickly for me and before I knew it I had no option but to close down my cooked food stall and stay at home for my own safety,” she said.

Nanise Selinia, 27, said the food businesses relied heavily on passengers travelling between the two main islands.

Vendors, she said, struggled during the inter-island travel ban, with many opting to stay home as businesses closed down.

This is the harsh reality of life now. We may not appreciate the impact of the pandemic until we hear such stories. The pandemic not only negatively impacted tourism.

It touched other parts of daily life in Fiji.

Lockdowns meant people could not travel freely. Isolation rules and social distancing meant less people were able to travel around the country.

That impacted public transport service providers.

Subsequently it negatively impacted associated service providers along the routes linking our nation.

It meant providers or suppliers to these many outlets or points of contact for travellers were also drawn in, and negatively impacted as well.

The roll-on effect more than doubled when you consider the far-reaching impact of rules that had to be urgently put in place to keep the COVID-19 pandemic at bay.

When you take an overview of how widespread the impact of the virus has been, we should accept that no one is truly immune to the turn of events.

Now that’s the reality of times we are now living in.

While we must embrace the new normal, we must also understand that the only way to return to some semblance of order in our lives is to keep the pandemic at bay.

With no vaccines in sight yet, social distancing must become a crucial element of our lives.

We should cut out shaking hands, and hugging people as a form of greeting.

To all those who insist COVID-19 is past us now, we say, think again!

Do not be selfish. Consider all those around Fiji who are negatively impacted and struggle to put food on the table. Consider their difficulties. Consider their plight. Consider their desire to churn out an honest living.

Do the right thing. Be part of the fight against this pandemic. Be the tough person who rigidly sticks to social distancing rules that will not only keep us safe, but assist in the bigger campaign to allow our economy to churn once more.

Fiji needs Fijians who will do the right thing right now.

For our loved ones, ourselves, and for Fiji.

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