Part of a trip that brought me to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Palau, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands before being cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic in Fiji.

Fiji

– visited March/April 2020 –

Travelling under the spectre of the novel Coronavirus

“Welcome Home” is written in massive letters on a hangar at Nadi International Airport. And to me, it felt like coming home. From previous visits, I knew the airport well as Fiji is the largest of the islands in the Western Pacific and Fiji Airways connects most of the smaller islands to each other. I never spend much time in Fiji but had several stop-overs of up to 36 hours.

After being refused entry in the Solomon Island due to having been in countries with cases of coronavirus infections, I was glad that Fiji has still a relaxed immigration policy. By the 11th of March 2020 every other country in that region of the world would either have refused my entry or forced me to stay in quarantine for 14 days. Thank you, Fiji!

Confirmed worldwide cases of coronavirus (deaths) as of 11th of MARCH 2020: China 80,908 (3,161); Italy 10,149 (631); Iran 8,042 (291); South Korea 7,755 (60); France 1,774 (33); Spain 1,639 (36); Germany 1,296 (2); USA 696 (25); Diamond Princess 696 (6); … Solomon Islands 0, Fiji 0

TOTAL: 118,319; OUTSIDE MAINLAND CHINA: 37,411
DEATHS: 4,292; AFFECTED COUNTRIES: 108

Immigration goes smoothly until we come to the question if I have a return flight. No, I don’t and in the current situation I would strongly prefer to keep some flexibility. I have to go to some extra office. The lady there is friendly but firm, having a return/onward flight is a requirement and I will have to book a flight right now. I ask for some time. I go through all my options. My original plan needs to be adapted. I was supposed to stay in Fiji for a number of days, fly on to Tuvalu, stay there for a bit, return to Fiji for a few more days, move on to Tonga, stay there for a week and then proceed to New Zealand and stay there maybe two weeks. There is some flexibility in my schedule as I haven’t booked any of the flights yet and do not have a fixed return date. But I am contaminated. Having been to Taiwan and the Philippines most countries now consider me as a health risk. I can only “clean” myself by staying in Fiji for 14 days and I need to hope that the virus will not appear in Fiji during that time. Travel restrictions are being introduced all over the world, I experienced them myself on the Solomon Islands and I do expect them to tighten further. To visit Tonga, I will need to stay for 14 days in a country without cases and will have to present a negative coronavirus test result. I have not yet found out the requirements for Tuvalu but I think they might be equally strict and, honestly, I do see the possibility of getting stuck somewhere due to the virus and I do not want this to be Tuvalu. This tiny country (population 11.192) scattered over a few atolls and with its overcrowded capital of Funafuti (if a country has that few people and is still overcrowded that gives a strong hint how small Funafuti atoll is) is no place where I want to get stuck. Tuvalu sees only a few hundred tourist a year so getting stuck there really means being stuck. I book a flight to Dunedin, New Zealand. I pass immigration, later that night I call Air New Zealand to make use of the 24-hour rule to cancel my flight free of charge (why they still keep about 6% of what I paid, I don’t know). I am free again. Still, I have a new plan, staying two weeks in Fiji and then taking some time to explore New Zealand. With many people prevented from entering New Zealand it might be a perfect time to roam.  

Travelling Fiji

The rain is heavy. I am on Mana Island in the “dry” southwest of Fiji but it rains more often than it does not. And when it rains it is usually pouring down. Mana Island is beautiful but most of the island is rented to the US TV-series “Survivor” and security is tight. They do not want people to sneak in and learn about the next season of the show. In fact, that limits the tourists to a small part of the island along the beach with the village. The filming has just been cancelled due to the virus but security remains tight. There isn’t much other to do than enjoy the ocean, the reef is easily accessible and quite nice, I put my new underwater camera (bought a week ago in Taiwan) to good use.

I decide to take a diving course. I had thought about diving way back in Mozambique in 2011, decided against it and never really questioned that decision although I have been to many beautiful dive spots since. It costs money, it costs time, both things that are always in short supply. Now, the time seems right. I need to stay in Fiji for 14 days and so far, the rain has made the prospect of spending some time underwater a lot more appealing than above water. If the rain is heavy enough you can even hear it 10 metres below the surface.

During my six days at Ratu Kini Resort, I see a lot of people come and especially go. Travel warnings are sounding all around the world. There is the Israeli guy who arrives, tells us about the dives he wants to take and leaves the next morning. Given the situation, he thinks it is best to go home right now. There are the French girls who, after speaking with their parents, frantically try to arrange their flights home, abandoning the bags they still have in Australia. There comes the Australian who returns home three days after leaving as his government calls people to return. There is the relaxed German guy who decides one day that he needs to leave as soon as possible. Others, including myself are more relaxed. Let’s wait and see.

Tavuni Hill Fort is about 5km along a small road from Sigatoka. I planned to but could not visit during my last stay in Fiji. A family takes me there, I share the backseat of the car with their new TV. “Take one of the umbrellas”, the lady says as she gives me the ticket. I do not want to have to carry around anything except my camera so I go without. It hasn’t rained much today so I hope for the best. I return from the walk around the fort (nice location but not too much remaining of the fort) totally drenched. There is a table with a roof and I just take of my shirt and wring it out. I wait for the rain to pause. As the Hill Fort closes four ladies come out of the building and join me under the roof. They want to know a lot about the virus, want to know how Germany is dealing with it (they have heard that we are quite affected) and we just talk about life and what the future might bring. I have time and they have time; no one is in a hurry. After about half an hour one of them suggest to leave, the rain hasn’t stopped yet so one of them shares her umbrella with me. Under the umbrella she shares some more about village life. Only one of them is married, the others have boyfriends but no interest in marriage. Most men here are lazy, she says, and if you marry them, they start to boss you around. We have reached the village below the fort and they bring me to the bus stop. A small shack where a few people sit and they are also interested to hear from me. The buses here a pick-up trucks with two benches on the back and plastic sheeting giving good protection against the rain. One dollar, the price would be only one dollar (Fijian of course). Walking around Sigatoka a shopkeeper offers me an umbrella. I do not like the one he offers but a smaller, foldable one eventually leaves the shop with me. A good investment.     

Confirmed worldwide cases of coronavirus (deaths) as of 18th of MARCH 2020: China 81,116 (3,231); Italy 31,506 (2,503); Iran 16,169 (988); Spain 11,178 (491); South Korea 8,320 (81); France 7,652 (175); Germany 7,156 (13); … Fiji 0

TOTAL: 191,127; OUTSIDE MAINLAND CHINA: 110,011
          DEATHS: 7,807; AFFECTED COUNTRIES: 144

The rain is heavy again as my bus arrives in Suva, Fiji’s capital. I look for some shelter and take a taxi to the hostel. The driver is careful that no water from my bags comes on his seats. The 19th of March 2020 is a bad day, he says, the virus is here. A flight attendant from Lautoka is Fiji’s first case. Lautoka, Fiji’s second largest city a bit north of Nadi Airport, has already been cut-off from the rest of the country. You cannot enter nor leave.

My plan has failed. With Fiji having its first case, I can give up all hope to keep on travelling to any other country. I soon learn that New Zealand has also just closed its borders to all foreigners. I check the flights. I do not like to make decisions in a rush so I go to the National Museum first and come back to the flights in the evening. Usually, you can find flights from Fiji to Germany for about 600 €. Now, for the next days, they cost double or triple that price. And prices seem to rise as you look at them. The first day with cheaper flights is the 25th of March where I find a flight (Nadi – Brisbane – Abu Dhabi – Frankfurt) for 680 €. As I try to book the flight disappears but I finally manage to book that flight for 752 €. That gives me a few more days in Fiji, no need to rush home for me.

Confirmed worldwide cases of coronavirus (deaths) as of 19th of MARCH 2020: China 81,300 (3,253); Italy 41,035 (3,407); Iran 18,407 (1,284); Spain 17,147 (767); Germany 10,999 (20); France 10,877 (372); USA 10,442 (150); South Korea 8,652 (94); … Fiji 1 (0)

TOTAL: 234,073; DEATHS: 9,840; AFFECTED COUNTRIES: 155

Ovalau Island

Levuka was once Fiji’s capital. The historic centre is a world heritage sights with a number of old shopfronts from the early 20th century that look right out of a western film. It has since, as has the whole island of Ovalau, become a backwater. The only dive shop closed after cyclone Winston caused heavy damage in 2015. I give an interview to two journalists from the Fiji Times, they came over to cover a school event but that was cancelled because of the virus. Now they just explore like me.
I am supposed to fly home in three days and I would like to spend them somewhere nice, not too expensive and possibly with the chance to train my dive skills. I also want to get back to Fiji’s main island Vitu Levu and closer to Nadi airport. Fiji got a second infection (linked to the first one) and the government is combatting it aggressively. As an isolated island nation, they try to stamp out the disease before it takes hold. There is talk about stopping inter-island ferries and given the example of Lautoka other cities and towns might be put under lock-down the moment cases appear. I leave Levuka on the early-morning Fiji Sea Road bus-ferry-bus-combination.

Getting Stuck

My place of choice is the Beachouse. An isolated small resort on Viti Levu’s Coral Coast it is normally home to a hundred to a hundred-twenty people. You can swim, snorkel, dive, surf, stand up paddle, kayak or just relax in a hammock. Now, I find a small group of about 15 people. One of them is in quarantine. Roell had the bad luck to sit on the plane with the flight attendant, Fiji’s first case. Five days after he arrived to Fiji, he got an e-mail informing him of this fact and telling him to stay where he is. He was moved out of the dorm and got a room on his own and his quarantine umbrella at the beach. There are certainly worse places to be under quarantine. He gets a few visits from the Fijian Centre for Disease Control taking his temperature and in the end a letter confirming his “release”.

Unfortunately, the dive shop is closed as there have been not enough customers. My flight home seems uncertain. The problem is political. Many countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates have blocked non-citizens from even transiting their countries. This leads to the situation that people go to the airport and are denied boarding as they do not fulfil the legal requirements for the flights. People are stuck and planes depart with empty seats. If governments had just agreed to let people fly homewards without giving them trouble many people that got eventually stuck would not have. And these passengers had very little rights to reclaim their tickets as it is the passenger’s responsibility to fulfil the legal requirements to take the flight. As I booked my flight home all flights would go through Australia. I applied for an exemption on compassionate grounds to be allowed to transit Australia that was finally rejected (because I would not have been able to transit the UAE either) on the day after I would have needed it.

Two days before the flight, I receive an e-mail announcing that my flight to Brisbane had been moved by a day. Unfortunately, the flights from Brisbane remained unchanged making my itinerary unworkable as I would have left Brisbane before I got there. In the end, the whole flight was cancelled and this spared me the need to go to the airport and also enhances my chances of getting my money back. So far, I have only been offered a voucher, but of what use is a voucher from Nadi to Frankfurt to me? I am stuck now in Fiji, the airport is closed and there is no timeline how to get back.

Confirmed worldwide cases of coronavirus (deaths) as of 25th of MARCH 2020: China 81,848 (3,287); Italy 69,176 (6,820); USA 51,914 (673); Spain 39,673 (2,696); Germany 31,554 (149); Iran 24,811 (1,934); France 22,025 (1,100); South Korea 9,137 (126); … Fiji 4 (0)

TOTAL: 413,467; DEATHS: 18,433; AFFECTED COUNTRIES: 172

I contact the German embassy. There is none in Fiji but the one in New Zealand is responsible. A “get-you-back-programme” (www.rueckholprogramm.de) has been established to collect the information of stranded travellers. The embassy sends a reassuring e-mail early on. We will provide you with some possibility to leave Fiji, but we are very busy at the moment (so don’t contact us) and it might take some time because other parts of the world are worse off than you are. For me the important part is that they will provide some way to leave. I am in no way forced to leave, but if I can I will. My parents would like to have me close during that crises, and travelling in my usual way is not possible anymore. I move a lot, I like to explore different things, and in the current situation I cannot do this. The Fiji government has slowly started to turn the screws. A nightly curfew is announced, inter-island ferries have stopped, tourist sites are closed and recreational activities (like diving) are officially forbidden.

I have settled into my Beachouse routine. I take it easy, I read a lot (finally taking on Yuri Slezkine’s “House of Government”), I go snorkelling every day for as long as I enjoy the reef. Beachouse reef is okay, not as beautiful as other reefs I had the good luck to explore (Felidhoo!) but if you take your time you can spot some beautiful fish. Lionfish, pufferfish, if you are lucky you find an octopus, nearly invisible peacock flounders, a surprising number of Moray eels and I thought I had finally seen a see snake. With some research it turned out to be a banded snake eel, that looks nearly exactly like the banded sea krait. I try to write a bit for this blog but I could do this a lot better at home with my real computer. On my laptop, annoyingly the keyboard started to fail soon before I reached Fiji, no “t”, no “z”, no “ü” and no backspace anymore. I even enquire about a replacement but am told that there is none available in Fiji, usually shipping would take 3-4 weeks but nowadays who knows…  I try to send some postcards but I only get a sad look at the post office. We do not accept international post anymore, sorry!

Confirmed worldwide cases of coronavirus (deaths) as of 1st of April 2020: USA 163,199 (2,850); Italy 105,792 (6,820); Spain 94,417 (8,189); (China 82,631 (3,321); Germany 67,366 (732); France 51,477 (3,514); Iran 44,606 (3,111); … Fiji 5 (0)

TOTAL: 823,626; DEATHS: 40,598; AFFECTED COUNTRIES: 178

Beachouse also adapts. The number of staff on site is reduced, at breakfast we have to ask for hot water and toasted bread (to prevent everyone from touching everything), the hours of the bar are reduced and they place hand sanitizer at a few places. And there is Iolanda, she is Italian, 72 years old and obviously scared. She makes clear that she wants to keep a distance from everybody and she gets her own table apart from everybody else. A sign on the table says: “Iolanda place, please don’t sit here, don’t touch the table”. We also have Hans; he is 75 and he wants to have a good time. The police come by one day and tell the owner to remove the pool table. We are good company, we are all in this together, but my companions are often very lax about social distancing which I think is rather stupid. There is enough space and you can easily sit a metre and a half apart and still be talking. I try to keep my distance and I try to behave under the assumption that I might have the virus that asymptomatic people can carry and transmit. I carry a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer most of the time and try to clean my hands before I touch anything that will be touched by other people like my plate or cutlery. I clean my hands before I touch the basketball, I don’t play volleyball with the others.

Am I asymptomatic by the way? At times the virus makes me paranoid. The first thought started in Taiwan. I was on the short hike to the summit of Dong Bu Shan close to Tataka. “You are out of breath quickly, my friend”, I was thinking to myself. Then I remembered that even if this is just a short hike, I am still on 2,700 metres above sea level and have slept the night roughly 2,000 metres lower. I have a right to be out of breath in such a situation. And I very often have a bit of a cold, a bit of a runny nose and a sore throat. So, this is nothing unusual to me. And again, from time to time the thought pops in my head that my breathing is weird. Did I just seriously stop breathing for two seconds? Is this normal? I stopped again, this time for five, is this weird. No, it’s totally normal but without Corona I would never have thought about it. One morning at the Beachouse, I wake up and I think, “I have a fewer, I’m sick”. I get out my thermometer and check. 36.7°C, no fever, not even a raised temperature, all very normal.

At the end of March, we are asked not to leave the resort anymore and outside they put up a menacing sign reading “NO ENTRY: Covid 19 Virus Isolation Area!” After I left Fiji, the police will actually come and ask them to remove the sign. If we need something from the supermarket, we can give them a shopping list every few days and once we make a shopping and ATMing trip to nearby Maui Bay. Life has become a lot quieter, there is a lot less traffic on the streets, restaurants are take-away only, but it feels good to get out. Everybody has settled into his own routine how to spend his days, some are playing cards, others watching films, swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, fishing. Being stuck somewhere might be a lot worse. The main problem with the Beachouse is that it is still about 2 hours away from the airport. On the 2nd of April two cases are found in Suva and the city, Fiji’s beating heart, is going into a lock-down that night. The German embassy advises anyone to move to Nadi, close to the airport but Nadi just isn’t nice. There would be no snorkelling there anymore. On the 4th of April the number of cases jumps from seven to twelve and the cases occur in four different parts of the country. The prime minister gives a stern press conference announcing that he wants to see the number of people coming to testing centres dramatically go up and the number of people mingling with others on the street dramatically go down. Otherwise, there will be a curfew not only at night but night and day, 24 hours. Usually, these curfews are announced with three or four hours of warning and I decide for myself to get my things as quickly as possible in that case and try to get to Nadi.

What is the embassy doing meanwhile? They send a daily e-mail reassuring us that there will be a flight, probably early next week. On the week-end they send an e-mail telling everybody that it might take two more weeks (they are having trouble in New Zealand). Then they go silent. We are an international group so we also know what other countries are doing. France is trying to organize a flight to the nearby French territory of New Caledonia, the British mission (which is operating in the name of an EU effort as if Brexit never happened) is trying to get Fiji Airways to operate a flight (on their own risk and with everybody paying their own ticket) to Los Angeles from where people have to organize their own onward connections. The smaller countries are piggy-backing on the efforts of the bigger countries.

There is a WhatsApp group of the Germans in Fiji. Are these people really my compatriots? I am shocked. One is removed fairly quickly for posting deranged bullshit that we would be treated better if we would be asylum seekers, another for posting inappropriate pictures including naked women, one guy is living in Fiji, trying to be helpful but mixing that with pictures of his much younger Fijian wife. Some people just seem desperate, some people seem mean and some people seem not to be able to fully understand the clearly formulated e-mails from the embassy nor understand that the British (EU) mission is pushing another plan than the German embassy. The majority is silent in embarrassment. Some families record a new version of leaving on a jet plane with slightly changed lyrics: “Heiko, come fly for me” [referring to Heiko Maas, Germany’s Foreign Minister].

There has been no embassy e-mail for three days, instead there is a lot of speculation. Someone in the WhatsApp-group knows someone working for Lufthansa. In their internal computer system, a flight Munich – Guam – Nadi appears. The flight even makes it on Lufthansa’s website, just to get delayed and ultimately cancelled. The next day a flight Munich – Hawaii – Nadi appears (internally) but eventually disappears. From the Dutch embassy comes the information that Fiji objected to any return flights that did not involve Fiji Airways. The lady organizing the WhatsApp-group sends a message that things are moving and it could be quick now but no word from the embassy itself.

Two more Covid-19 cases on the 6th (14 in total), one more on the 7th (15) Gladly, no 24-hour curfew. And there is another catastrophe looming. Cyclone Harold has formed east of Papua New Guinea and is expected to reach category 5, the highest. The prediction is that Harold will bypass Fiji’s main island Viti Levu (where I am on) in the south but fully hit Kadavu. Reports emerge that Harold swept 27 people from an unwise ferry in the Solomon Islands. The north of Vanuatu is badly battered by winds reaching up to 275 km/h. At Beachouse, the bigger boats are moved to a safer bay down the coast.

Going home

In the end, I think the approaching cyclone speeded up the repatriation effort. Fiji Airways wanted to bring the planes to safety. As we finally depart there is another plane ready to go to Los Angeles and besides that not a single aircraft is visible anywhere. All the other eleven jet planes in the fleet are gone. The message from the embassy is short and comes via WhatsApp rather than per mail. “Tomorrow, 4 P.M. at the airport. Details will follow.” As there is no follow up, after a few hours people start to question the authenticity of the message. Everybody can give himself another name on WhatsApp, isn’t it? Even after being reassured twice by people claiming to have had personal contact with the embassy (including by the lady running the group) one person is still refusing to believe it is true. Well, then don’t come to the airport!

An e-mail confirmation finally arrives at 4 A.M. in the morning. We will fly to Brisbane, stay there for the night and fly on the next day via Doha to Munich. Qatar is one of the few countries with a major airline still flying and still open for transit. We are a group of nine heading to the airport. Three Germans, two French, one Dutch guy, one Swiss girl, one Italian lady and one guy from Mongolia (with French residency). The lines are long and the check-in is chaotic. As we will be entering Australia with special permission every single passenger has to be cleared (by phone it seems) with Australian immigration. From a German perspective, the process is totally unbureaucratic, you show your passport at the counter and receive your boarding pass. No one from the German embassy is visible, how could they, they have no way to get to Fiji at the moment. We leave two hours late, gladly the pizza shop at the airport is open.

It’s one of those flights where it must be absolutely great to be a pilot. The sunset view you get in the cockpit must be mind-blowing. And that sunset is long, we are flying west and the sun is only twice as fast as we are. In Brisbane, I am happy to spot the shed of Air Nauru. On arrival, first thing we get handed is a form, this time not a health declaration form but a “Self-Quarantine Direction”. We have to fill out our name, home address, contact details and the hotel name. At a desk, distance guaranteed, the forms are taken over by some police officers, in my case by an officer from the Brisbane City Tactical Crime Squad and signed. I am thereby directed to stay until the 8th of April in the IBIS Airport Hotel and only allowed to leave in search of medical treatment or in an emergency situation. Failure to comply with that direction carries a penalty of up to 8.000€. To facilitate things, a few diplomats from the German embassy in Canberra are at the airport to help with any problems. We go through the proper immigration procedure (although most do not have the normally necessary eVisitor visa), have to “survive” the biosecurity check (my tent pegs and the wooden box from the Philippines clear the check with flying colours), and are then released in groups of 25 through a back door out of the airport. The 20 metres to the bus are protected by a few soldiers to prevent anyone from starting to explore Australia on its own. The first eight seats remain empty to protect the driver. At the hotel, we can choose from three dinner and breakfast options that will be delivered to our rooms. Surprisingly, the room and the food are all paid by Queensland police. 

Confirmed worldwide cases of coronavirus (deaths) as of 8th of April 2020: USA 363,321 (10,845); Spain 140,510 (13,798); Italy 135,586 (17,129); Germany 103,228 (1,861); China 83,157 (3,342); France 77,226 (10,313); Iran 62,589 (3,872); UK 55,246 (6,159) … Fiji 15 (0)

TOTAL: 1,353,361; DEATHS 79,235; AFFECTED COUNTRIES: 181

Next morning, we get a phone call, the bus is ready to take us back. Obviously, we were not in a hurry as this is already the last bus. The line at the airport is long again. Australian police are checking my passport. They ask me if I have another one or have residency in Australia. “No, I don’t, why are you asking?” “Because of the travel ban.” Australia is actually stopping its citizens from leaving the country.

We get to talk to the German honorary consul in Brisbane who seems to be in charge of the operation. I ask him about the empty seats on the plane. He said they had 280 people expressing their desire to leave but, in the end, only about 200 showed up. They would, in fact, have taken every European who would have appeared at the airport. That is bad to know, I knew a few British people who wanted to leave but were never informed about the option to take the flight. The honorary consul suddenly asks for our names, I am a bit surprised but then I realize that this might be a good sign.

So far, we have not paid anything and have not signed anything, we have just been flown from Fiji to Australia, stayed at a hotel and been fed two meals. After check-in, we have to sign a form that we want the consular help and that we will contribute to the costs afterwards. You read correctly, the German government approach is to bring people home first and then later when everything is settled, send them a bill. A good method if you are desperate, have trouble accessing your funds or anything else. The downside is, you don’t know what kind of bill to expect in the end. The form doesn’t say that, but their usual line is that the contribution will be in line with the price of a normal economy ticket, whatever that may mean. At the time of writing (mid-May 2020) I still have not received my invoice. Brisbane International Airport feels eerie. Everything is empty, everything is closed, the flight schedule for the next four days fits on one screen (and someone tells us that all flights after tomorrow will be cancelled anyway). At least Subway is open to provide us with lunch. As hoped for my name gets announced before boarding and I receive a new boarding pass for the business class. A nice thing to happen as I am looking forward to a 15-hour flight. The seat is basically a cabin, it can be transformed into a bed, the screen is big, the noise-cancelling headphones are superb, my camera has a comfortable resting place and I basically have a secondary seat closer to the window. The only bad thing is, on my normal seat I am quite far removed from the window (although I am lucky enough to have a window seat). And I love gazing out of the window, trying to recognize what we are flying over. The flight attendants must have thought I am crazy as I was doing acrobatics from time to time to get some nice pictures.    

Three hours layover in Doha, it seemed we have a whole wing of the airport just for ourselves and six more hours to Munich. On arrival, we get an information paper:

“Avoid unnecessary contacts.
Stay at home for 14 days!
Wash your hands regularly, thoroughly and with water and soap!
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth”

Nothing more, I take the train home.

How did things go on in Fiji?

Cyclone Harold proved less devastating than feared, still at Beachouse it knocked all communications out, the electricity went off and the emergency generator was damaged beyond repair.

There would have been more opportunities to leave Fiji. A week after our flight a French-organized plane left for New Caledonia with a connection to Tokyo and beyond and on the 29th of April the British mission finally delivered. By now, all the people I got to know in Fiji that wanted to leave, have left. 

Fiji recorded only 3 more cases of Covid-19 and at the time of writing no new cases have been recorded for 25 days. The country is slowly coming back to normal although the prime minister urged caution in truly Fijian language: “We’ve all seen a [rugby] sevens side –– after a comfortable half-time lead – go on to lose the game because they got cocky, let their guard down, and failed to see victory through to its end. Well, the stakes of this virus are far higher than a rugby match – they are life or death. I’ve said many times before: We are at war with COVID-19. We must stay vigilant. We must stay disciplined. We must keep ourselves one step ahead of this killer virus.“

Fiji, go on to victory!