It will obviously be critical when Fiji’s borders re-open that intending visitors are confident that the country has adopted international best practice when it comes to dealing with the Covid-19 threat. Which makes it all the more perplexing that the country’s leadership is so demonstrably failing to set an example to the nation, especially in terms of social distancing.
The rules on this are quite clear – a space of at least one and a half metres between individuals and no hugs or hand shakes. The Ministry of Health in Fiji recommends this internationally accepted standard. But there is little or no prospect of it being embraced while the Prime Minister and his Attorney General take no notice of it whatsoever. They appear to believe that it doesn’t apply to them. Yet in ignoring the recommendations of their own government, they are sending a very unfortunate signal not only to Fijians but anyone contemplating visiting Fiji when the time comes.
That signal is that Fiji will not be entirely safe from the threat of Covid transmission, whatever other measures are put in place. Because proximity to other individuals and physical contact in the form of handshakes or hugs are the most basic Covid transmission threat of all. And if Fijians aren’t keeping their distance, no international visitor can be sure that they are not at risk.
The lack of compliance by the leadership and their failure to set a standard is astonishing when the stakes are so high. If they take no notice of the social distancing protocols, why should anyone else? All of which makes it much less likely that when the mums and dads of Australia and New Zealand can eventually make the journey that they will choose to do so. Fijians not only need to adopt best practice but be SEEN, in the eyes of the world, to adopt best practice for any rapid economic recovery to take place.
The video below of the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, encapsulates all the arrogance of a government that doesn’t practice what it preaches. The reason for his visit to the Kulukulu School in Sigatoka is a good one – to highlight the threat to our oceans and sea-life of plastic bags. But the example he sets for the children in terms of Covid best practice is appalling. Handshakes all round – and even hugs and kisses – and no social distancing whatsoever.
If Fiji wonders why no-one wants to come when the borders open, it will be because its leaders think the rules don’t apply to them. And by extension when the time comes for would-be visitors to make their travel decisions, that Fiji doesn’t think the basic rules to avoid the spread of Covid apply to it.
It’s the complete opposite of the most successful Fijian tourism promotion of all – “Fiji, the way the world should be”. In this instance, Fiji, not the way the world should be and shooting itself in the foot.
It’s also worth watching the video in full to appreciate the presidential style the AG has acquired for himself – the long wait for someone who is terminally late, the arrival of the official convoy, the reception line, the place of honour, the prescriptive speech, the mingling and photo ops and then a similarly regal departure. This is the de-facto number two in the government, not the country’s leader. So is it any wonder that power has gone to his head?
On Friday: The succession: Frank names his choice.