Consumers Role in Battling COVID-19
August 26, 2021
On 19 April 2021, the Fijian Government announced the first case of locally transmitted COVID-19 case in over a year which led to the lockdown of the greater Nadi and Lautoka areas. Subsequent announcements made by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services saw the lockdown of other areas; including Lami, Suva and Nausori areas. Due to the detection of the virus in vast geographical locations, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services had labelled the whole of Viti Levu as possibly ‘exposed’.
This has further triggered the enforcement of health measures through a number of Government of Fiji Gazette on Public Health Act. The health measures gazetted; although being labelled as inconvenient by some, is designed to protect all Fijians and curb the further spread of the virus. Hence, the Consumer Council of Fiji encourages all consumers to strictly adhere to these health protocols as your life; and the lives of your loved ones depends on it.
Majority of Fiji’s population heavily relies on public transportation as means of travel across the country. These services exist to provide travel options for all and are usually provided at the lowest possible cost, consistent with service quality and safety standards. However, the latest COVID-19 developments in Fiji make it imperative for consumers to only travel (whether in public or private transportation) if there is an absolute need for it. For consumers, travelling is only recommended while accessing medical services or when shopping for essentials such as food and health products.
Rules for travelling in public transportation
Due to the presence of commuters from different areas, as well as the anonymity of commuters, it becomes crucial to strictly adhere to health measures being proposed by the relevant authorities. Some of the measures which consumers should adhere to;
• Face covering; It is the responsibility of all commuters to wear face covering in the proper manner. Remember, most people wearing masks is not enough! We need everyone to do their part and wear face covering – this is one of the most important weapons you have in your arsenal to fight this deadly pandemic. This also applies to drivers of public service vehicles.
• Distancing; As recommended, physically distance ourself whilst travelling in public transport.
• 50% capacity. While boarding public transport, if you observe that the vehicle has reached its 50% capacity, wait for the next available transport. Do not risk your life, and the lives of your loved ones. Better be safe than sorry.
While all businesses in Fiji have been legally mandated through the gazette order to require its employees and customers who are 5 year of age and older to wear face coverings in the proper manner in order to enter premises of the business, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services has recommended other health measures which consumers should take heed off. The Consumer Council of Fiji also encourages all consumers to;
• Download and install the CareFiji app. Consumers should keep in mind that the app will only work if the Bluetooth in the smart phone is also switched on. Keep the app activated all the times. CareFiji app is an important tool for the health authorities in their contact tracing efforts.
• Practice physical distancing. Consumers must ensure that they are at least 2 meters apart from other consumers while shopping. If a shop seems overcrowded, wait for the crowd to get cleared. Do not become the epicentre of an outbreak. It is the sole responsibility of you as a consumer to ensure that physical distancing is strictly adhered to.
• Sanitize. Be sure to wipe down the handles of the shopping cart before use. There must have been countless hands touching it. Better yet, always keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer on you. Use it every chance you get.
• Going cashless. The exchange of notes and coins means physical contact with other people. Consumers should always sanitize or wash their hands thoroughly after exchanging cash. Better yet, consumers can go cashless and use EFTPOS and other online platforms to make payments. However, hand hygiene should still be practiced.
• Prepare shopping list. Consumers must prepare shopping list before going out of their homes. Preparing a shopping list means you will know exactly what to buy and from where. This will save times and ensure that you do not go about different places in an uncoordinated manner.
• Limit the number of people going out shopping. Do not take your family and friends shopping with you if it is not necessary to do so. More people moving would mean a greater risk to everyone’s lives.
Consumers worldwide tend to engage in panic buying during times of crises. The Consumer Council of Fiji strongly encourages consumers to refrain from such practices as it often results in;
• Hike of basic food items and other essentials.
• Consumers spending beyond their means.
• Placing unnecessary strain on supply chains.
• Some consumers hoarding essential items while others are deprived of it.
The Fijian Government, as a result of lockdowns, have put in place mechanisms so that supply chains are not affected hence, consumers should not fear that supermarkets and other shops will run out of supply.
Consumers coming across unscrupulous traders during this time of crises are encouraged to contact the Council on toll-free number 155 or lodge a complaint using the Consumer Council of Fiji mobile app.