Editorial comment: COVID-19 – Tough times, decisions to make

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaking at the University of the South Pacific on Wednesday, February 26, 2020. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

The fact that New Zealand has mapped out its ‘stamp it out’ pandemic plan is interesting. NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced sweeping rules that are targeted at keeping the pandemic at bay.

That means, effective from midnight tonight, all travellers, except for those coming from the Pacific Islands, will have to self-isolate for 14 days on their arrival to New Zealand.

The rules, she said, are the toughest in the world.

New Zealanders have been advised not to travel overseas if they don’t have to.

They have been advised not to hug, hongi or shake hands.

Perhaps the most interesting, at least in our context, is the directive that all cruise ships are not to visit New Zealand until June 30.

The restrictions, she said, would be reviewed in 16 days.

These are the strictest border restriction rules in the world, Ms Ardern said.

The NZ Herald quoted her saying: “Alongside Israel and a small number of Pacific Islands who have effectively closed their borders, this decision will mean New Zealand will have the widest ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world.

“I make no apologies. This is an unprecedented time.

“We understand these decisions are disappointing people but we have to prioritise people’s health.”

While the new rules are expected to further take a hit at the NZ national airline Air New Zealand, Ms Ardern remains adamant about the need to put the health of her people first.

New Zealand, the PM insisted, must hit the pandemic by “flattening the curve” to have the rate of cases in the right place – either at home or in hospital if needed.

“That is why we must go hard and we must go early,” Ms Ardern was quoted saying.

“We must do everything we can to protect the health of New Zealanders.”

The focus for us now shifts firmly to our own decisions here in Fiji, and the calls made by the powers that be.

We realise the implications our decisions may have on our economy, however, the people of Fiji will no doubt be keenly looking to the powers that be to make decisions that protect our safety and wellbeing.

That, undoubtedly, would be a key consideration.

These are certainly tough times.

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