Fiji’s government has announced it will make Covid-19 vaccinations a mandatory condition of work for civil servants and staff in the private sector, with some people liable to lose their jobs if they do not comply.
The prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, said in a televised address on Thursday night that employers and employees in the private sector should receive at least one dose of vaccine by 1 August.
“It does not matter if you are the CEO of a company, a sole trader or a salaried employee, you must be vaccinated to continue working or else that business will risk being shut down. No jabs, no job – that is what the science tells us is safest and that is now the policy of government and enforced through law,” he said.
Civil servants will be directed to take leave if they do not get a first jab before 15 August, and they are expected to be fully vaccinated by 1 November or face dismissal.
The ramping up of the vaccination campaign also includes spot fines ranging from $20 to $4,000 for breaching any of more than 20 offences outlined in public health regulations.
Bainimarama said: “The good news is that the coronavirus vaccines are working and we are deploying them quickly. The AstraZeneca vaccine which we are administering in Fiji does very well. It has been shown to offer 92% protection against hospitalisation from the Delta variant of Covid-19 present in the country.
“With other, potentially deadlier variants spreading around the world, including the highly contagious Lambda variant next door in Australia, we cannot afford to waste time getting vaccinated and getting back the lives and livelihoods we know and love. These simple measures slow the spread and prevent more cases of severe disease and death.”
Several countries have considered compulsory Covid vaccinations, although usually on a less widespread basis. The UK government plans to make vaccines mandatory for care home workers in England later this year.
Kameli Batiweti, the chief executive of the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation, said the pandemic had taken a toll on the tourism and hospitality industry.
“The pandemic is standing in the way of the borders reopening. The whole world has suffered the consequences and Fiji is not spared,” he said. “Unemployment has increased because our largest industry, tourism, has almost closed with no international tourists flying in. It appears that we are under bondage with this pandemic. The solution to getting out from under the stone is to encourage everyone to be vaccinated.”
The Fiji Trades Union Congress previously encouraged all workers to be vaccinated but maintained that the law must protect anyone exercising their right not to get the jabs.
Fiji recorded 860 new cases of Covid and three related deaths in the 24 hours up to 8am local time on Friday. It has recorded a total of 51 deaths due to Covid, 49 of these during the outbreak that started in April this year. Of the 49, 41 were unvaccinated and eight had received one dose of vaccine.