#AceNewsReport – Feb.03: And the island nation’s Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Climate Change, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, is desperate to get Australians there: It may seem a strange request, but he insists it’s the best way to assist the country and bring employment and revenue back to Fijians.
‘Fiji grapples with unfolding crisis of cyclones and #COVID19 tourism downturn, urges Australia to allow travel bubble’ Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has urged the Australian Government to “fast track” the proposed ‘Bula Bubble’ and allow tourists to visit the island nation, which has gone almost 300 days without a #COVID19 infection.
ABC News: Posted 1h ago
“If you say to me, you’d like to send 10,000 tourists, I’ll give you a big hug,” he said.
“That’s how desperate things are.”
Tourism is responsible for at least 40 per cent of Fiji’s GDP, but the country’s COVID-19 travel slump has been compounded by two devastating tropical cyclones Yasa and Ana, the latter of which arrived at the weekend.
A third cyclone — Bina — was downgraded to a tropical depression, but it exacerbated flooding in regions already hard hit.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said another “climatic event” would put further strain on the country’s already struggling economy.
“It would be wonderful if the Australian Government expedited these discussions to get these borders open,” he said.
“We have all the health measures that can be put in place.”
Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama proposed a ‘Bula Bubble’ in June 2020, to allow international visitors back into the country.
Under the proposed plan, they would be able to travel to Fiji for a holiday under strict COVID safety conditions.
Australia has recently reopened its travel bubble with New Zealand.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said it “will continue to assess whether other countries should have similar arrangements”.
The plea comes as authorities continue to confront the aftermath of massive flooding and extensive damage from Tropical Cyclone Ana.
One person died in the storm, while several remain unaccounted for.
It was the second deadly storm to hit this summer after Tropical Cyclone Yasa smashed the tiny nation in December.
The island of Vanua Levu — the second largest in the Fiji archipelago — was particularly badly affected at the weekend.
Thousands of people remain in evacuation centres across the country and people in Labasa, the island’s largest town, said they were caught off-guard by the system’s veracity.
Schools have closed and major roads in and out of the region have been destroyed in landslides.
“What we didn’t know is that it was going to flood far more than what happened in 2003, that’s the last time when we had a massive flood,” special administrator of Labasa Town Council, Ami Kohli, told the ABC.
Mr Kohli is one of the thousands of people who’s houses were flooded and household items destroyed.
He said the town and its outskirts, which is home to more than 30,000 people, had its electricity and water supply cut off.
“We have to be careful about diseases, viruses, Dengue [fever] and we have to be very careful about people not drinking filthy water,” he said.
“It’s bound to happen if people run out … because they’ll be desperate.”
The Fiji Red Cross Society warned rates of Dengue fever and diarrhea had already become a “major issue” in Fiji after Cyclone Yasa.
People in Labasa told the ABC fuel had run out and there were now concerns about food supplies.
“There’s urgent need for assistance of food security to people because people have lost their food and of course household items,” the Labasa Cane Producers Association’s Lakhan Kumar said.
The NGO represents almost 4,000 sugar cane farmers on the island, most of whom have now had their livelihoods uprooted due to the storms.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has been visiting cyclone affected regions this week, but locals said aid had not yet arrived.Loading
Sydney-based charity United Fiji Community said it had received dozens of calls from Fijian residents seeking urgent help during this “depressing moment”.
“People are suffering and suffering in silence,” chief coordinator Bobby Mishra told the ABC.
“Not only are they suffering through a series of tropical cyclones and floods, but the after-effects of COVID-19.
“Simple things we take for granted — food, shelter, blankets and the water. That shouldn’t be the case.”
Mr Mishra said educational materials like pencils and books had been covered in mud and silt, so teachers had called asking for school supplies for their students.
“We live in one of the best countries in the world,” he said.
“If only we can assist our Pacific nations.”
#AceNewsDesk report …………Published: Feb.04: 2021:
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