Let’s fight this virus together – Nation plunges further into uncertain times

FRIEND, an NGO, works with rural communities in the Western Division during the pandemic. Picture: SUPPLIED

As the nation plunges further into uncertain times, we are all anxious at the handling and what direction we will be going towards as the pandemic continues.

By outlining a few areas that are being discussed in the public arena I thought we could bring a little clarity and conversation to these topics.

This article is intended to win the hearts of Government and help curb many of the negative comments occurring on social media, if improvements can be made together, we can all certainly move forward as a nation.

1. Communication – The COVID–19 public relations news conferences started well, and I will be the first to say, all the health professionals deserve praise for this. Unfortunately, the perception today is that little notice is given to the daily updates and possibly overelaboration of points is starting to occur. A key moment in miscommunication was the movement of people from one containment area to other areas which was very confusing for the general public and some government agencies. Mistakes happen, but I pray to God further cases will not arise from this unforeseen situation. What officials might want to keep in mind is that not everyone has vehicles and drivers and earning a regular paychecks each week. The reality unfortunately is that most of the citizens rely on public transport and have just enough money to buy food to last them only a few days at a time. So I believe the key to successful communication is a degree of compassion, an understanding of the public’s genuine fears and struggles, finally, showing empathy during these uncertain times is a must.

2. Freedom of press – Like all professions, the media has a job to do, and that job is a very important one indeed. Their job is to question officials on behalf of every citizen of Fiji and deserve to ask the questions others may not ask. Any ethical journalist knows you should never be too comfortable with authority and always ask questions that the public needs answers for. The simple solution here is to work closely with all media agencies, answer what questions you can, and give as much information to them to make correct statements to the public that they serve.

3. 161 assistance line – I appreciate the thought process behind this service for the public in receiving food rations during the lockdown, but it did seem chaotic at times. I tried calling on behalf of many stranded families to get help, but just couldn’t get through. I believe the lines unfortunately crashed at a very important time; therefore, the public had no access to request food rations for some time. The answer to this problem is outlined in number 5.

4. Lockdown notice – During the previous lockdown a few weeks ago, only a few hours was officially given for the public to organise themselves and prepare for a lockdown, which we all know was a mistake. Most families and the vulnerable in our community were caught off guard. In fact, the majority of Fiji’s citizens had to endure a lockdown, while being confused, scared, and feeling vulnerable during this time. I am happy to report this has now been fully addressed during our latest lockdown and a thank you to the authorities.

5. NGOs to the rescue – This is one area I recommend government to make use of, if ever there is a nation reliant on help and the goodwill of NGOs it’s Fiji. The Government as of now hasn’t tapped into the vast network and databases these grass roots organisations have. They have been on the ground serving the public day in day out for many years and I am sure would be more than happy to assist in identifying food and provisions for needy recipients rather than a hit and miss approach. With a little co-operation, trust and understanding, I am sure a joint task force between NGOs and Government can do wonders.
Dr Fong, you, and your team are doing a good job under the circumstances and I do appreciate every day is a learning exercise for you and the comments above are purely to improve and build bridges for all of us going forward as a nation.

My own personal opinion is we should have gone for a straight 14 to 21-day nationwide lockdown back in April, as many nations tend to do when the first cases were reported and give it our best shot to at least try and flush out cases and test as many people of interest as possible and attempt to bring the fast-rising COVID-19 count down, but that is just my personal opinion and I also respect the Governments opinion to go down another route.

Finally, I pray for all our hard-working health workers, police personnel and front-line workers as they continue to work hard 24 hours a day and protect our beloved nation Fiji.

  • Ajay Bhai Amrit is a freelance writer. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily shared by this newspaper

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