Europeans in the Pacific – COVID-19

Europeans in the Pacific – COVID-19

The Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific is currently reaching out to all European citizens and permanent residents currently in the Pacific.

The Delegation, in partnership with its Member States, regional and international partners are working to provide information and instructions to Europeans during the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic.

You are inviteg to look at their “European citizens in the Pacific” form and to distribute it amongst other Europeans for information: https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/COVID-19-Pacific

You can also contact the Delegation at delegation-fiji-fly-home@eeas.europa.eu

Fiji Airways Seeks Interest for Recovery Flights to Australia

Fiji Airways Seeks Interest for Recovery Flights to Australia

THE FOLLOWING IS A TRAVEL ADVISORY FROM FIJI AIRWAYS

Fiji Airways is exploring the possibility of recovery flights between Nadi and Sydney and Nadi and Brisbane on Tuesday (31 March) and/or Wednesday (1 April), to repatriate citizens and residents wishing to return home. Flight details can only be confirmed if there is adequate demand for these services. To assist, Fiji Airways is actively seeking expressions of interest from citizens and residents currently in these cities wishing to be on these flight. This can be done by submitting a form on this link. The expression of interest can be submitted by Australian citizens or residents currently in Fiji wishing to return to Sydney or Brisbane only. Fijian citizens, residents and permit holders currently in Sydney or Brisbane can also register their interest to be on the return flight to Nadi. Ticket prices will be available on the form submission.

Fiji Airways guests holding valid tickets for Nadi-Sydney / Sydney-Nadi or Nadi-Brisbane/Brisbane-Nadi flights are also able to book themselves on the recovery flight at no cost by registering their interest via the online form. Guests booked on other airlines should check directly with their airline if they are able to endorse their tickets on Fiji Airways.

All guests are reminded that only bonafide citizens and residents are able to enter both Australia and Fiji at this time, and will be subject to further measures by the respective Governments on arrival. This includes either self-quarantine or self-isolation at home or a Government-mandated facility. All guests wishing to take this flight must familiarise themselves with and adhere the entry requirements of Australia or Fiji. Fiji Airways is unable to uplift transit passengers on these recovery flights.

Tourism Talanoa: Coping With A Crippling COVID-19

Tourism Talanoa: Coping With A Crippling COVID-19

FHTA, 26 March 2020 – As we keenly await Government’s supplementary budget that we all hope will sufficiently address the devastating impact of COVID-19 on Fiji’s tourism industry and entire economy, there is massive uncertainty being felt by the tourism industry as every operator has now had to implement business survival plans for this unprecedented chain of events.

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) says up to 50 million jobs in the travel and tourism sector are at risk due to the current pandemic. In Fiji, with most of the nearly 40,000 tourism jobs being directly affected and 110,000 indirectly, tourism businesses here are also in a fight for survival. While the tourism industry has been the mainstay of the economy for the past 10-20 years, all businesses will suffer dramatically and some simply will not recover from this downturn as cash flow dries up.

Never has global tourism stared down such a bleak future. Despite our nation’s history with ferocious cyclones, disruptive floods or unexpected coups, we could never have foreseen as grim an outlook as we do today.

The Government’s preparation measures to contain the COVID-19 virus kicked into effect as soon as our first case was confirmed. In a swift and calculated move, the city of Lautoka was declared a no-go zone and cordoned off to enclose the infection and transmission to a localised area in keeping with international practices.

The next logical step to restrict movement in and out of the country evolved quickly with drastically reduced demand and thus both incoming and outgoing flights dried up with Fiji Airways slashing 95% of its international flights in the first 24 hours after the initial announcement.

For the country and the health of our nation’s citizens, this was the best possible move short of implementing more radical measures that may still be called upon while limiting all non-essential movement. Judging from other nations’ responses to the pandemic, Fiji has acted swiftly to contain the local transmission to a minimum.

At the time of writing, this global health disaster has already infected more than 420,000 people across the world, killing nearly 20,000. The death toll in Italy has now surpassed China and that is an alarming statistic.
While at the beginning, the fear of the virus slowly reduced the global travel market, the closed borders and worldwide travel bans have now ensured that Fiji’s international tourism industry has virtually completely shut down. Our main source of visitor arrivals – Australia and New Zealand – acted quickly to close their borders and now Australians are banned from overseas travel until further notice.

It is almost trite to say that without guests, there is no source of revenue for the operators. If the operators go bankrupt, they will not be able to recover and start operations again and this will impact future employment and economic activity. This means that the 110,000 jobs that directly and indirectly rely on the tourism sector, are now severely impacted by this extraordinary health crisis.

In the span of just over a week, nearly every single tourism operator has been forced to make the heartbreaking decision to save the businesses by implementing reduced hours or take owed annual leave initially, followed by leave without pay or laid off conditions for all permanent staff with almost temporary staff let go almost immediately. At the same time, operational cost cutting measures have been implemented while management staff are taking significant pay cuts as well. We are looking at job losses and significant unemployment or underemployment for an estimated 90% of the entire industry as well as supply chains that depend on tourism. This will also include farmers and communities that provide produce, food, entertainment, craft, activities and transportation for tourism. This will move on down the supply chains to mean that less spending is available which affects traders, small businesses, supermarkets, bars, restaurants and retail shops. As people are advised to move around less and have less spending money anyway, transportation networks will reduce based on less demand with buses, mini vans and taxis expected to see the effects of curtailed travel.

Small and medium sized businesses (SME’s) are expected to feel the effects first so we hope they do get generous incentives from Government to stay viable and be able to come out of this quickly.

FHTA’s recent member survey estimates that by the end of this month, 93% of all hotels & resorts,
cruise, dive, transport, tours and activity providers will have to close their doors because there are no
international tourists and the domestic market is not large enough to sustain the entire industry. The
most difficult part of the situation for all concerned is that nobody can be sure how long the closures will
last.

While we are hopeful that international tourism will resume in June there are some predictions that the
crisis may last 6 – 9 months or even longer. We are hopeful that the government will find a way to
cushion the blow and have provided our feedback on behalf of tourism operators and their staff. With
40% of our GDP dependent on tourism our overall recovery will depend on the outcome of the larger
economies as their recoveries will provide the required impetus for people to want to travel. As the MD
of Rosie Travel Group recently described it – this is a ‘black swan moment’.

As Governments around the world provide creative stimulus packages to boost their economies that
are feeling the drastic impact on no tourism, reduced workforces and closed commercial businesses,
Fijian businesses also await our own economic stimulus budget with high expectations.
FHTA hopes that the Supplementary Budget being delivered today will consider workers from all sectors
who have been laid off, on reduced hours or leave without pay so that they can pay bills, rents or
mortgages and buy food and medicine. We also hope that much needed assistance is provided to
businesses to stay afloat, reduce their operational costs and maintain their cash reserves to enable
salaries, rents and utility payments along with other commercial responsibilities like taxes, FNPF and
land leases. We believe that most businesses will find it extraordinarily challenging to make it through
this period without significant support from the government. We also know that that staff will be suffering
through this period and we are devastated as they are the heart and soul of tourism. On behalf of the
nation we plead with citizens to follow the government’s guidelines to reduce the spread so that our
people’s health is not affected.

We also believe that the virus pandemic will eventually pass and we need our tourism industry to be
able to be in a position to recover for the benefit of the economy and all Fijians. We call on all Fijians to
stand united and support one-another.

Dixon Seeto, FHTA’s past President was fond of saying, “”Imagine Fiji without Tourism”” and we may
just about get a glimpse of this, soon enough.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 26 March 2020 

Last scheduled Nadi-Narita return flights – Fiji Airways

Last scheduled Nadi-Narita return flights – Fiji Airways

THE FOLLOWING IS A TRAVEL ADVISORY FROM FIJI AIRWAYS

Fiji Airways will operate its final scheduled flight between Nadi-Narita tomorrow, Friday 27th March and the return Narita-Nadi on Saturday 28th March. This flight is to assist citizens and residents to return home to Japan, as well as bring Fijians based in Japan back to Fiji. The acceptance criteria is as follows:

  • From Nadi – only Japanese citizens and residents will be able to board.
  • From Narita – only Fiji citizens, Fiji residents, Staff of the United Nations and European Union, Work Permit Holders, and Diplomatic Passport Holders will be able to board.
  • All guests may be subject to further boarding requirements at check-in.

Flight Details:

Flight Number From To Departure Date Depart (local time) Arrive (local time)
FJ351 Nadi Narita Friday 27th March 1:15pm 7:30pm
FJ1350 Narita Nadi Saturday 28th March 12:00pm 11:30pm

To book or purchase tickets for these flights, please call Fiji Airways Reservations (in Fiji) on 3304388 or 6720888, or 9103603. In Narita, Japan, please call Fiji Airways Sales Office in Narita on 81+3 5219 1440. Guests holding unused tickets between the two cities (for a future/past travel date) are able to book themselves on the flight by calling these numbers.

All guests will be subject to the respective Governments’ requirements for international arrivals. This may include temperature checks, requirements for self-quarantine or self-isolation upon arrival.

Annual Leave Pay Calculation

As part of our membership benefits, we provide legal opinions on many areas of concern for clarification and interpretation

Our views are requested on which wage / salary rate should be used to calculate leave pay during the implementation of “wage / salary  reduction”.

Our views are discussed below:

Applicable Legislative on Annual Leave

The Employment Relations Promulgation 2007 makes the following provisions in respect  of annual leave:

Employer to give paid annual holidays

58.—(1) An employer must give to a worker paid annual holidays in accordance with this
Promulgation.

(2) An employer may give to a worker paid annual holidays in excess of those required to be
given by this Promulgation.

Paid annual holidays

59.—(1) After each year of employment with an employer, a worker must be given 10 working days holiday
and must be paid in respect of such holiday the wages the worker would have been paid for the time the worker
would normally have worked during that period.

(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), a worker is not entitled to the paid annual holidays in respect of any year
during which the worker attended work if the worker has been absent from work for more than 20 normal working
days during that year, except where the absence has been due to sickness certified by a medical practitioner, or the
worker is excused from work by the employer or is prevented from attending work by any other cause acceptable to
the employer.

(3) If a worker is entitled to a paid annual holiday under this section, the employer must permit the worker to
take the annual holiday in one unbroken period or, at the request of the worker, in two or more periods, one of which
must be a continuous period of one week.

It is clear from Section 59 of the ERP that the legislation not only mandates minimum 10 working days leave for workers but requires employer to pay the worker during the leave.The only exception disentitling a worker to annual leave would be when a worker is absent without cause from work for more than 20 working days in the year that he is entitled to take annual leave.

Payment of Annual Leave Pay

Section 59 (1) states that “After each year of employment…a worker must be given 10 working days holiday and must be paid in respect of such holiday the wages the worker would have been paid for the time the worker would normally have worked during that period.”

Thus a worker who proceeds on annual leave should be paid what he or she would normally earn if he/she was at work.

It is thus our view that where a worker has already accrued leave, prior to the implementation of wage reductions, the leave pay should be calculated on the workers’ original base salary.

However for those workers who may not have accrued leave prior to the wage reduction implementation but are requested to take leave after the wage reduction, the Resort can calculate annual leave pay based on the new / reduced base wage rate.

All Singapore and Hong Kong Flights Suspended – Fiji Airways

All Singapore and Hong Kong Flights Suspended – Fiji Airways

THE FOLLOWING IS A TRAVEL ADVISORY FROM FIJI AIRWAYS

Given newly introduced border restrictions by Singapore and Hong Kong, Fiji Airways will no longer operate any further Singapore and Hong Kong flights. We will advise all customers should the situation change.

We realise that there will be some guests wanting to return to their respective countries, however, we are only able to mount recovery flights with the concurrence of the respective governments, based on operational feasibility. Passengers are urged to reach out to their respective embassies or High Commissions.

Fiji Airways has flexible options available for all impacted guests, which include free change of dates or holding the fare in credit for future use anywhere on the Fiji Airways network.

Please note that due to the unprecedented scale and nature of the current situation, there would be extended waiting or hold times on our Reservations number, therefore, we have made available self-help options for guests.

Please click here if you would like to take one of the below options:

  1. a) Travel funds held in credit for future travel or
  2. b) Travel dates deferred to a known future date

We apologise for the inconvenience and sincerely appreciate your understanding during these challenging times.

Digicel Fiji Appoints First Local CEO

Digicel Fiji Appoints First Local CEO

DIGICEL FIJI 24 March 2020 – Digicel Fiji has appointed Farid Mohammed as their new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). This is a milestone announcement as Farid is the first local to be appointed to the top job since Digicel Fiji started operations in Fiji in 2008.

Originally from Lautoka, Farid is a proven leader in the business having served since 2006 in other Digicel Pacific markets, including Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Fiji and Tonga in various roles. He is no stranger to Digicel Fiji as he has previously served as the Chief Financial Officer for 4 years prior to taking up the CEO role in Samoa in 2017.

Farid has a Bachelor of Accounting degree and is a full member of CPA Australia and an alumna of Wharton’s International Executive Programme for Future Leaders. He is currently pursuing his Master in Business Administration.

Farid joins us from the Samoa business to take on the reins from outgoing CEO, Mike Grieg.

During his 3 years as the CEO for Digicel Samoa, Farid seamlessly implemented the new centralised operating model, delivered the modernization of the network project and successfully connecting to the first submarine cable bringing Samoa to the world stage with connectivity and internet access. According to Farid, the icing on the cake was the Pacific Games 2019 of which Digicel was the official sponsor.

Digicel Regional Chief Executive Officer, Shally Jannif congratulated Farid on his appointment as the CEO for Digicel Fiji.

“Along with his strong grasp of the Digicel DNA based on the senior roles and experience with us, he brings the right mix of commercial and customer understanding coupled with a deep passion for technology and innovation which can only be of benefit to our customers in Fiji. His appointment comes at a time when we face such great uncertainties across the world, and with his passion to provide the best for our customers assures us that we will continue to serve our customers no matter what adversities we face,” Shally said.

Farid stated; “I am delighted to be coming back home to the Digicel family at a time when the company is forging ahead on its journey to becoming a digital lifestyle partner for customers.”

“With telecommunications and technology central to the continued growth and development of Fiji, I am committed to ensuring that our customers always benefit from their association with Digicel.”

“It is during challenging times that I take on the role that I have aspired for but with the dedicated team I am confident that Digicel will play its critical role in ensuring our people stay connected to their family and friends and businesses can continue to operate,” stated Farid.

Repatriation flight for Samoa flies tomorrow

Repatriation flight for Samoa flies tomorrow

FBC NEWS 24 March 2020 – Fiji Airways will operate a supplementary return flight to Samoa tomorrow to assist citizens and residents to return home.

However there is a criteria for passengers to secure seats.

From Nadi – only Samoan citizens and residents will be able to board.

From Apia – only Fiji citizens, Fiji residents, Staff of the United Nations and European Union, Work Permit Holders, and Diplomatic Passport Holders will be able to board.

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COVID-19: Resort operations to be temporarily suspended at month end

COVID-19: Resort operations to be temporarily suspended at month end

FIJI TIMES 24 March 2020 – THE Wananavu Beach Resort in Rakiraki will temporarily suspend its operations from March 31, 2020.

In a statement, the resort said it planned on taking reservations on July 1, “though this is subject to change.”

“This is a serious situation and closing our operations marks a significant step to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said the statement.

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COVID-19: Military officers monitor Nadi waterways

COVID-19: Military officers monitor Nadi waterways

FIJI TIMES 23 March 2020 – Republic of Fiji Military Forces officers are monitoring waterways between Nadi and Lautoka after rumours of people bypassing roadblocks to circumvent the Lautoka border.

Police Commissioner Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho said he had sought the assistance of the RFMF to increase the monitoring of people who were trying to bypass borders and checkpoints in Lautoka.

He said there were rumours that people were using waterways and the military had been brought in to cordon off the inner banks of the Sabeto River going down to the seafront where punts and boats needed to be put on land.

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Fiji places special emphasis on border agencies

Fiji places special emphasis on border agencies

FIJI TIMES 23 March 2020 – FIJI is placing special emphasis on border agencies such as Biosecurity Authority of Fiji, Fiji Revenue and Customs Services and Ministry of Health and Medical Services to exercise efficiency and duty of care to stakeholders.

This was confirmed at a Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism-led consultation with shipping, and supporting fuel and logistics companies, with the Fijian Competition and Commerce Commission.

Discussions focused around ascertaining the extent of impact to the Fijian economy and possible response measures.

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FCCC to constantly monitor retailers on keeping all products available

FCCC to constantly monitor retailers on keeping all products available

FIJIVILLAGE 20 March 2020 – Retailers have been asked by the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission to exercise their judgement based on customer and store locations to limit sales for customers so that everyone has fair access.

The Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission says they will constantly monitor the situation and have asked traders to do their best to keep all products available to everyone.

It says if shortages are noted then other limits may be put in place, however this will only be done if absolutely necessary.

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COVID-19: Lautoka border along Kings Highway cordoned

COVID-19: Lautoka border along Kings Highway cordoned

FIJI TIMES 20 March 2020 – LAUTOKA’s border along the Kings Highway is tightly cordoned off to people trying to leave or enter the sugar city.

Police and military officers have been up since midnight to stop people from leaving or entering the town.

A team from this newspaper, can confirm people arriving from Vanua Levu on an Intercity Bus have been prevented from entering the City.

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COVID-19: Fiji Airways crew and passengers advised to contact authorities

COVID-19: Fiji Airways crew and passengers advised to contact authorities

FIJI TIMES 20 March 2020 – WITH Fiji’s first confirmed COVID-19 case involving a flight attendant, passengers and crew members who boarded three Fiji Airways flights have been advised to contact health authorities.

Any passenger or crew who travelled on Fiji Airways flights FJ411 (Nadi-Auckland) on March 17 this year and FJ410 (Auckland-Nadi) and FJ871 (San Francisco) on March 16 are asked to contact the numbers listed below:

Central Division 2219905, Eastern Division 2219906, Western Division 2219907 and Northern Division 2219908.

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Number of safety measures announced after first case of COVID-19 was confirmed

Number of safety measures announced after first case of COVID-19 was confirmed

FIJIVILLAGE 19 March 2020 – From midnight tonight our border restrictions on Mainland China, Italy, Iran, Spain and South Korea will be extended to foreign nationals who have been present in the USA and all of Europe including the United Kingdom within 14 days of their intended travel.

Also from midnight tonight, anyone who enters our country from any overseas destination will be required to self quarantine for 14 days meaning they must stay in one place and avoid contact with others or going out in public.

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Tourism Talanoa: Tourism Bracing For The Worst

Tourism Talanoa: Tourism Bracing For The Worst

FHTA, 19 March 2020 – The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is surging and making its presence felt all over the world. There is almost an air of inevitability about it reaching Fiji’s pristine shores and it is only a matter of time before that happens. French Polynesia and Guam were the first regional countries to confirm cases and the rest of the Pacific is waiting with bated breath.

However, Fijians can rest assured knowing that Government and all relevant stakeholders, are working hard to see that the impact and spread is minimised and controlled and to enable business continuity. Diligent work being undertaken by border control, health practitioners and others is ensuring that preventative measures are in place and Fiji is prepared for COVID-19 when it gets here.

As of 17 March, the pandemic has seen more than 167,000 cases of infection with 6606 deaths. These are alarming figures. They will continue to steadily rise daily, and scientists are scrambling to devise a vaccine.

As fears grow about the virus’s impact, financial markets have taken a big hit. No one will know the true economic impact for some time, but the pinch can be felt now. Countless meetings and discussions have taken place by all industries to try and mitigate its negative socio-economic effects and these meetings will become the norm for the foreseeable future.

Experts around the world are calling for a coordinated interest rate cut which would most probably happen; but monetary policy itself cannot help increasing global investment and output. Tax breaks will assist SME’s but may take time even if they are designed to help mainly the low-income groups. For Fiji, some innovative fiscal policies through direct government expenditures targeted to specific sectors and groups will be necessary.

The tourism industry is by no means immune. These have been labeled “existential times for the global travel community” and rightly so. Heavily reliant on travelers, Fiji’s tourism sector with a significant 40,000 people in formal employment, is bracing itself for a sharp dip ahead. The decrease in the flow of Asian travelers as well as those from our key markets Australia and New Zealand, is already resulting in the loss of millions of dollars from cancelled group travel and for events such as weddings, events and conferences. Every day, the cancellations increase, and the booking enquiries grow less.

Skift’s CEO, Rafat Ali, says that “travel is the most consequential industry in the world, as the world is now finding out due to lack of travel.” As well as travel being the geopolitical centre of the world, a now grounded planet is feeling this in no uncertain terms.

Everywhere in the world, international airports around the world have become increasingly empty as flights have been canceled and more travel warnings have been issued, resulting in cancelled flights, holidays and meetings overseas and domestically.

The International Air Transport Association has predicted a $29.3 billion loss in overall passenger revenue this year.
At home, Fiji Airways has taken several steps to protect guests and staff. Additionally, screening processes and onboard procedures for crew and passengers have been upgraded.

Tourism businesses have been offering increased flexibility for customers wishing to change their bookings to defer travel without any change fees or hold credit for later travel.

This past Sunday, Government announced new restrictions and measures in the fight against COVID-19. This includes the barring of cruise ships to berth in Fiji waters and the cancellation of all international events in Fiji. Fijians are being advised to remain in the country and keep overseas travel to essential circumstances only.

In preparing for this evolving situation since mid February, Tourism Fiji, FHTA, SOFTA and other tourism operators have been working on being proactive and looking at measures to stay in business and offer incentivised packaging to promote Fiji and tourism products to visitors and locals. There have also been meetings with the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Health to stay in touch and ensure information to tourism stakeholders and potential visitors is aligned to the message that there is no confirmed case of COVID-19 in the country, that Fiji was safe and that we maintained confidence in Fiji’s Health Services.

FHTA has also contributed to the recent Private Sector Stakeholders Meeting to discuss the effects of the Pandemic on tourism businesses and provided a submission for consideration to the Supplementary Budget that will be announced next Friday.

Tourism is not alone in looking forward to this budget that is expected to introduce fiscal policies to assist all cross-sections of Fiji to manage the economic downturn of business due to COVID-19. We hope that our national tourism office gets the additional funding support it will need to compete against the rest of the world in these difficult times. Fiji must work extremely hard to win the confidence of visitors overseas amid the overwhelming response by tourism destinations around the world to also do the same.

No one knows how long this crisis last, or how quickly the global economy will rebound. History tells us it is often the most vulnerable economies that get hit the hardest. In looking ahead while keeping our business plans flexible, we must also remain pragmatic. This starts with keeping COVID-19 at bay by consistent washing of hands and staying alert to what we can each do to avoid the spread of this virus.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 19 March 2020 

Fijian economy now expected to go down in 2020 – RBF

Fijian economy now expected to go down in 2020 – RBF

FIJIVILLAGE 18 March 2020 – The Reserve Bank of Fiji says the Fijian economy is now expected to go down in 2020 against a 1.7 percent growth earlier projected, and the full effect of how the economy gets affected from COVID-19 cannot be predicted as the situation remains fluid.

RBF has also made it clear that based on it’s baseline scenario, the magnitude of the contraction in the Fijian economy will depend on how long the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

RBF Governor, Ariff Ali says partial indicators for consumption and investment in Fiji point to sustained softness in aggregate demand, which means consumption and investments are expected at reduced levels.

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COVID-19: Fiji widens existing travel restrictions to include Spain

COVID-19: Fiji widens existing travel restrictions to include Spain

FIJI TIMES 19 March 2020 – The Fijian Government has widened its existing travel restrictions to cover all foreign nationals who have been present in Spain within 14 days of their intended travel to Fiji.

From March 18, 2020, Fiji’s borders will be closed to all foreign nationals who have been present in mainland China, South Korea, Italy, Iran or Spain within 14 days of their intended travel to Fiji.

In addition, all international air passengers will continue to be checked with handheld temperature scanners prior to entering the country, and their travel history and health status will be screened by border agents.

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