Fiji proceeds with border reopening despite Omicron

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Fiji will press on with plans to reopen its border to international travellers, despite the threat from the newly identified Omicron Covid-19 variant, the Pacific nation’s leader has told parliament. The country has long targeted December 1 as the day it will welcome back foreign holidaymakers to boost a tourism-reliant economy devastated since the pandemic forced borders to close in March last year.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said Omicron’s recent emergence would not derail the plans and he would personally welcome the first Fiji Airways flight into Nadi from Australia. “We are still emerging from the horrible pandemic that we suffered and are just starting to recover from its economic devastation,” he told parliament. “Businesses are rebuilding… and people everywhere are resuming their normal lives.

The Omicron variant has rattled global markets and prompted some countries to tighten border controls, with Japan and Israel planning to bar all new foreign travellers. Fiji has tightened restrictions on arrivals from southern Africa but made no changes to rules surrounding “travel partner” countries whose citizens can still take a tropical getaway in the Pacific idyll.

They include Japan, New Zealand, the United States and France, as well as countries where Omicron has been detected such as Australia, Canada and Britain. Bainimarama was confident Fiji’s 90 percent vaccination rate among adults would help contain any outbreak, provided strict health protocols are observed.

Foreign visitors need to be fully vaccinated and test negative for Covid-19 prior to departure. Once in Fiji, they must stay in designated zones where all contacts, from hospitality staff to tour operators, will be fully vaccinated. Fiji managed to eliminate Covid-19 for 12 months before a devastating second wave of the Delta variant caused almost 700 deaths in the nation of one million.

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