Editorial comment: PM sounds warning about new variant

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, has sounded the warning for Fijians to be aware of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus. For whatever it is worth, this warning comes just days away from the reopening of our international border, for tourists. It is an important statement that we hope Fijians will listen to, and raise their COVID-19 safety measures.

We are reminded about the impact of the virus in 2020, and how the second wave, which started in April this year, killed 693 Fijians of the total of 695 Fijians who have died due to COVID-19. It was a sad reflection of how we responded to the second wave. Now we have a variant that is supposedly worse than the delta variant.

As the PM highlighted, this new variant was discovered in South Africa on Thursday. Speaking at the opening of new classrooms at Muaira District School in Lutu, Naitasiri on Friday, he urged people to be extra careful, get vaccinated and maintain COVID-19 restrictions with Fiji opening its international borders on December 1.

Europe, he said, had put a ban on people from Africa travelling to their countries. He warned that people over 60 years or those that suffer from asthma, diabetes and other sicknesses, were among people “doctors want jabbed because their chances of dying of COVID-19 was high”.

He warned people who refused to take the jabs that the COVID-19 virus would not go away anytime soon. Mr Bainimarama said he had advised permanent secretary for Health Ministry Dr James Fong to start putting emphasis on the need to follow COVID-19 restrictions because he had seen that people are starting to ignore this such as the wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing.

The PM made an important point when he picked on the fact that there was an increase in COVID-19 cases in countries that opened up their international borders, because people failed to adhere to COVID-19 protocols. We seem to have taken a back seat after the percentage of those who have been jabbed twice hit the 90 per cent mark.

The World Health Organization has declared the new coronavirus variant as a virus of concern and named it omicron, with a large number of mutations and an increased reinfection risk. WHO first received a report of this new variant on November 24 and it has been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.

As we count down the days to the December 1, let’s remind ourselves about COVID-19 safety measures. Let’s be reminded about the need to adhere to advice. We know what must be done.

Our challenge is to remove the sense of complacency that has crept in, and remove thoughts that we may not catch the new variant, and that we may not get a third wave.

There were very tough lessons learnt during the second wave. Far too many Fijians died over this period. We must learn from that as we move forward.

We must be prepared for a third wave, and the new variant.

We have been warned Fiji!

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