Fiji expects to welcome vaccinated-only foreign tourists from “green list” countries to its shores in coming months as “one of the world’s safest tourism destinations,” Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has declared.
The island nation has achieved an enviable vaccination rate, with 62% of Fijians now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and a whopping 97.2% have received their first dose.
Bainimarama says the reopening of the country is progressing with the so-called “green list” nations that have “mutually recognised vaccine protocol agreements”, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Korea, Singapore and parts of the USA.
Effective today [Friday 17 September], travel restrictions have been eased and containment area borders lifted across the main island of Viti Levu. New curfew hours for Viti Levu have been put in place, from 9pm until 4am (from the previous 8pm-4am), and social gatherings of up to 20 people are permitted indoors, and up to 30 outside.
Domestic travel will also be able to recommence. However, inter-island travel remains controlled, including to Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second-largest island. Restrictions will remain in place to the islands until an even higher vaccination rate has been achieved.
From 4 October, hotels and restaurants are now permitted to operate with a capacity of 70%, but only to fully vaccinated persons. COVID-safe measures, such as face masks and 2-metre physical distancing (where possible), will be necessary.
Once the vaccination threshold of 70% is achieved, Vitu Levu’s curfew hours will move to 10pm-4am. At 80% threshold, 11pm-4am and all businesses will fully reopen to fully-vaccinated Fijians.
“For Fiji’s part, we are ticking every box of readiness,” the Prime Minister said yesterday.
“Our plan is not to open quarantine-free travel with the entire world in one go. It will be gradual, starting with travellers from exclusive “green list” areas with similarly high rates of vaccination to ours and low test positivity rates.
“Once we vaccine at least 80% of adults in Fiji, we will be in an excellent position to open quarantine-free travel with other countries that have deployed the same Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines we are using in Fiji,” Bainimarama said.
Aside from being fully vaccinated, travellers from green list areas will need to receive pre-departure approval, obtained online, and present a negative COVID-19 test result within 72-hours of boarding their flight to Fiji.
As for a timeline, Bainimarama is optimistic for a border reopening to leisure travellers within 10 weeks.
“At the rate we are going, we expect to be ready to accept travellers well before our goal of celebrating Christmas in Fiji with our friends from around the world. In fact, we are looking at re-opening as soon as this November.”
“While much of that depends on the next several weeks and what the science informs us is safest, I want the Fijians who depend on tourism to know – we are [doing] everything possible to get you back to work and bring this industry back from the brink.”
For its part, Fiji Airways’ domestic airline – Fiji Link – is readying to relaunch flights only for fully vaccinated passengers (except those under 18 years or with exemptions). The trunk route of Suva/Nadi will be the first to resume.
Internationally, Fiji Airways actually has flights scheduled online commencing 1 November 2021 between Sydney and Nadi.
Qantas too has flights loaded on its website from Sydney to Fiji commencing 30 November, but clearly states all its international flights are currently suspended, at the same time noting it is “preparing for a gradual restart of international flights from mid-December 2021, with plans linked to the vaccination rollout in Australia and key international markets”.
Lead image: Courtesy of Tourism Fiji