Execute lockdown if basics met, say CSOs

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Ministry of Fisheries officials load food rations to be distributed to people in the Suva -Nausori corridor during the lockdown period on Monday, May 17, 2021. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Civil society organisations (CSO) say a complete shutdown of Viti Levu to bring the COVID-19 outbreak under control should only be executed if the basic needs of the most vulnerable and those on the margins are able to be met.

CSOs stated a total lockdown should only be considered if the State could ensure people without the means had food on the table for the duration of the measure.

As the country enters the fifth week of containment and lockdown measures, the CSOs said the State missed out on effectively conducting a total shutdown early on in the outbreak.

They were reacting to a recent statement by former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka for Government to bite the bullet and enforce a total lockdown to effectively bring the virus under control as cases continued to emerge on an almost daily basis with Health Ministry officials scrambling to contain the virus.

Mr Rabuka had also said women should be brought into the forefront of the discussion and youths should be engaged in agricultural activity to boost local food production.

Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre co-ordinator Shamima Ali said a complete shutdown “might not be viable at this stage because of our traditional setting, our poverty levels are high and we do not have that much of an ‘online culture’ where we can shop for basic needs online and get it delivered to our doorsteps”.

“You have to ensure people have food, know your population and how the business community will conduct itself if we go into a complete lockdown,” she said.

“Are we equipped for all these? Even before doing that, we need a decisive plan of action of what the Government will do to alleviate the plight of the not so privileged or poverty-prone sections of our society.”

Fiji Council of Social Services executive director Vani Catanasiga said the State missed out on an opportunity to effectively conduct a total lockdown earlier on.

“I think the Government squandered the opportunity to be proactive earlier in this crisis and that is to engage civil society organisations in the fight, particularly engaging effectively with communities for risk communication,” she said.

Nasinu District Council of Social Service executive Esita Karanavatu echoed similar sentiments.

“Consider the possibilities or worst-case scenarios,” she said. “Unless the Government stops using a blanket approach and targets the extremely vulnerable in their food ration activity, it is not a workable solution.

“Enough with the top-down approach please and consider those whose vulnerability status will be further exacerbated because of the bird’s-eye views of those in leadership.”

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