Solomon Islands scholars fear as Fiji hit hard by dangerous covid-19 variant
BY JARED KOLI
Studies and living expenses are becoming tougher for Solomon Islands students as coronavirus cases continue to climb in Fiji.
A student at the University of the South Pacific (USP), Laucala campus, told Island Sun the second wave of the virus affected them physically, mentally and worse, prices of food in supermarkets have skyrocketed.
New cases are recorded every day in Fiji with over 700 active cases now in isolation since the re-emergence of the virus in April 2021. Forty-seven new cases were reported on Friday, and 105 cases alone yesterday, the highest daily cases recorded so far.
In the same month, the country’s Permanent Secretary of Health Dr James Fong confirmed that the highly dangerous and more contagious Indian variant of the coronavirus was discovered to be the variant infecting Fijians.
A number of students expressed to Island Sun the current situation they are facing is difficult and one that needs the government to seriously look into.
“Compared to last year, now it is totally different, life is hard here, the government need to think seriously about it,” said Bentley Dililibata, a USP Bachelor of Commerce student under the Solomon Islands Government scholarship.
“Mentally, students find it hard to cope with school work. When you are busy trying to get down with studies, and next is the Fiji Government announce several newer cases,” he said.
Dilibata said things are becoming expensive as well, and call on the government to seriously think about the situation the students are in.
A student residing in the USP Student Halls, Eugene Qavibatu said now students need to show a pass at the gate before they are allowed to go out to the supermarket for shopping, which is only allowed for an hour.
“Only super markets are currently opening doors for people but things are becoming more expensive, for example a 10 kilogram of rice which usually cost FJD$17 now costs $19, fruits such as orange which used to cost FJD$2.70 is now $4 to $5,” Qavibatu said.
“Everyone is complaining, fifty dollars now will enable you to buy just a few things compared to before the outbreak of the pandemic here,” he adds.
Another student at USP who wished not to be named, said the situation is not safe anymore, and all students have to abide by the health and hygiene protocols and follow strict measures imposed by Fiji authorities.
“We have to stay at home and only go out to the supermarket for food and essentials. We are getting tired of staying at home but we have to abide to Government strict measures in order to protect us as well.
“Worse is prices of goods have increased dramatically,” the student adds.
The student said students that are studying under scholarships funded by Tonga, Tuvalu, New Zealand and others have received allowance to support them during these hard times.
“For us SIG sponsored students, some of us are living on noodle and taiyo (Soltuna canned tuna) to survive each day,” the student said.
This newspaper was informed that a SIG students Covid 19 Task Force Committee have submitted a request to the Government to consider allowance for students affected by the covid-19 re-emergence battling Fiji.
Queries sent to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development Dr Franco Rodie on the matter went unanswered over the weekend.
However, Island Sun was told that a Covid 19 Task Force Committee comprise of student leaders studying in Fiji institutions have submitted the request to the national government through the Education Attaché based in Suva, Fiji, Francis Tavava.
Similar request from Solomon Islands students in Papua New Guinea was also forwarded to the national government.
Fiji-based Solomon Islands Students Association President has asked this paper to follow up on the issue of Covid-19 allowance with the Education Attache in Suva for comments . Island Sun is following up on this issue.
In April 2020, when Fiji was hit by the first wave of Covid 19, SIG sponsored students studying in Fiji were given special Covid 19 assistance allowance. In May the same year, the assistance was also extended to private sponsored students.
According to a statement issued by Fiji Ministry of Health on Sunday Fiji recorded a total of 1118 cases in Fiji since the first case was reported in March 2020. There have been 312 recoveries and 4 deaths due to COVID-19. A total of 6 COVID-19 positive patients have died from pre-existing non-COVID-19 related illnesses.