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Prime Minister Hon. Voreqe Bainimarama’s message to Fijian healthcare heroes

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PRIME MINISTER HON. VOREQE BAINIMARAMA’S MESSAGE TO FIJIAN HEALTHCARE HEROES

03/04/2020

In Fiji, our “heroes” are usually found on the rugby field. It’s how we described our 7s champions in 2016’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and it’s how we saw them as they stood proudly to accept their gold medals as the Fijian national anthem played over Brazil.

But as the global COVID-19 pandemic has derailed plans for the 2020 games in Tokyo, resulting in their postponement until next year, a new kind of hero is emerging as the pride of Fiji –– our healthcare heroes. They’re not just scoring tries; they’re saving lives.

These heroes –– our doctors, nurses, disciplined forces and healthcare staff –– are our frontline soldiers in Fiji’s war against the coronavirus. Day in and day out, they don their gowns, face masks and goggles, in isolation wards, hospitals and fever clinics, putting the lives and wellbeing of others before their own in the campaign to lock down coronavirus.

This morning at 5am, our lockdown of the greater Suva confined area came into effect. For the next 14 days, no one is coming in and no one is going out. Some of our essential healthcare workers live outside of the confined area, but work in Suva, others live in Suva and work outside the confined area. Late into last night, three hundred of these Fijians, along with many police officers, packed up and moved into and out of the confined area –– many left their families behind –– all so they can continue their life-saving work in our healthcare facilities and in enforcing our health protection measures.

These Fijians are the heroes we need in the face of the coronavirus crisis. They are the true Most Valuable Players on Team Fiji. They deserve more than our gratitude, they deserve every measure of our vigilance and discipline in our daily lives to stop the spread of this virus. Wash your hands with soap and water, keep a safe distance of two metres from all others, and –– above all else –– stay at home. Stay at home unless you have a life-sustaining reason to leave.

Stay at home, respect the sacrifices of our healthcare heroes and help them save lives. Show them solidarity, share the spirit of vei lomani.
“Vei lomani” doesn’t translate perfectly into the English language, but in iTaukei, it encaptures an emotion that has instilled so many Fijians –– no matter where they live in Fiji, what language they speak or what background they come from –– with hope as we work together to combat coronavirus. We know it as an expression of love, but not in the typical, romantic sense.

Instead, vei lomani is love for those around us, and love shared for the whole of our community. Most importantly, it’s a love that comes with a sense of responsibility, and of duty, to care for one another.

Through their sacrifice, our healthcare heroes have embodied vei lomani. Other Fijians have done the same; those farmers growing and carting produce to bring to the boundaries of confinement areas in Suva and Lautoka, those serving in our disciplinary forces who work long hours to enforce our safety directives, and all those essential workers who are keeping the country running.

I ask that all Fijians carry this love, and this responsibility, in their hearts in the days, weeks, and months ahead as our nation fights COVID-19. But during this global crisis, we don’t need to be doctors or nurses to save lives; for most Fijians, you can do so simply by staying at home.

So, join me in cheering on our healthcare heroes as they sacrifice spending time in the comfort of their own homes, surrounded by their own families during these trying times. Please, don’t take your ability to do the same for granted.

God bless our healthcare heroes. God bless Fiji.