Editorial comment – We must fight this together

Dr Aalisha Sahukhan speaking at the COVID-19 national announcement at the Ministry of Health headquarters conference room at Dinem House in Toorak, Suva on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Picture: FIJIAN GOVERNMENT

It’s hard not to be enveloped by emotions when there is death. You could see it in the faces of permanent secretary for Ministry of Health and Medical Services Dr James Fong, and Dr Aalisha Sahukhan last night.

It wasn’t difficult to spot the slight quiver in their voices.

Overcome by the moment, by the emotional responses that they were trying to cage in, they lived the sad moment for every Fijian who was able to watch the live feed on the government site.

Sadly this wasn’t on national television or covered by the media live.

Death is inevitable. But death under these circumstances can be overpowering.

We see it happening around the world as the COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly. Many Fijians have watched videos of mass cremations and burials in countries ravaged by the virus.

It’s frightening. The announcement last night that one of our COVID-positive patients, a woman from the recent Makoi cluster, was entered into intensive care after her condition began rapidly deteriorating was sad.

Dr Fong said: “I’m sad to report that, despite the best efforts of her attending physicians, she has passed away.

“We informed this woman’s family of her passing and offered them our sincere condolences well before making this announcement to the nation, as we wanted them to have time to process this privately. Tonight, I offer the nation my ministry’s total commitment to spare as many families as we can from the tragedy of seeing loved ones lost to this terrible disease.”

That is a powerful message. It must resonate across every household. It must touch every heart and mind. It must leave an indelible impression on the minds of every Fijian.

As the good doctor said, this death, the second due to this outbreak, must serve as another painful reminder of the severity of the threat that we face.

We are dealing with a virus, he said, that has claimed more than 3.7 million lives around the world.

Many more Fijian lives, he warned, could all-too-easily add to that sobering figure. But that does not have to happen!

That is our challenge. There must be optimism. There must be confidence in what we can do to fight this virus.

“The war against this virus is still winnable. Many thousands of lives can still be saved.

Today, tomorrow, and every day after, for all of the foreseeable future, we will tell you what steps you can take to protect yourself and protect the ones you love,” Dr Fong said.

“Listen often, listen well, and please adhere to every word of the advice we have to give.”

So let’s adhere strictly to physical distancing rules. Let’s sneeze into an elbow or into a tissue and dispose this safely. Let’s cut out hand shakes, and drop the hug.

If you have to be out in public, wear a mask and do not touch your face at all even if your nose is itchy.

Remember you will end up touching a lot of things around you.

Our challenge is to ensure our hands remain clean.

That means not touching your face until you are able to clean them, and washing your hands often with soap and water, or with a hand sanitiser.

You could feel the emotions last night. But there was also something else that stood out.

Passion! And a willingness to fight the virus.

Perhaps there is that bit that suggests there is no other way but forward!

In the face of what is arguably one of our greatest challenges as a nation, we must overcome fear together, and be accountable, for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for the nation.

We must face this as a nation. United! The message must reach every Fijian!

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