“It was supposed to be a de-stressing holiday but now it’s very stressful because we don’t know if we can come back or not,” Majed said.
Source: SBS News
But despite their father’s worries, Majed’s children were eager to explore the country. His daughter told SBS News: “we haven’t been to Fiji before so we’re very excited.”
Majed and his family will spend four nights in Fiji. He said their greatest fear is being shut out of the country while overseas.
“I’m not worried about the variant itself. Just about the borders,” he told SBS News.
“When we heard about the variant and the risk of the border being closed we actually were more motivated to travel … you never know if you can travel again or not … so we decided to go.”
Another couple on the flight echoed Majed’s concerns, but said while they would remain vigilant, they wouldn’t let the new variant overshadow their holiday plans.
“We don’t want to quarantine and get into all the trouble again, we just hope we can come back quickly,” Preet said.
“It’s made us a bit cautious, but we won’t let that dampen the fun.”
“Excited but cautious.” This Sydney-based couple are travelling toon the first tourist flight to the country in 20 months. Fiji is pushing on with plans to reopen its border to international travellers today, despite the emergence of the Omicron variant.
Fiji’s economy is reliant on tourism, with the industry making up roughly 40 per cent of the country’s economy.
Tourism Fiji told SBS News the country is expecting 75,000 visitors over December and January, with 40 per cent of visitors hailing from Australia.
Australia is home to more than 61,400 Fijian-born people, according to 2016 Census data.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said Omicron’s emergence would not derail the country’s plans to reopen.
“We are still emerging from the horrible pandemic that we suffered and are just starting to recover from its economic devastation,” he told parliament on Monday.
“Businesses are rebuilding… and people everywhere are resuming their normal lives.”
Fiji has tightened restrictions on arrivals from southern Africa but citizens of “travel partner” countries including Japan, New Zealand, the United States and Australia will be welcomed into the country.
To enter Fiji, travellers over the age of 18 must be fully vaccinated and produce evidence of a negative RT-PCR test 72 hours before departure. Children over the age of 12 must also record a negative RT-PCR test.
Once in the country, visitors must stay in designated zones where all contacts, from hospitality staff to tour operators, will be fully vaccinated.
Mr Bainimarama said he’s confident Fiji’s 93 per cent first dose vaccination rate among adults would help contain any outbreak.
“We all must remain serious and vigilant and keep up our guard,” he said.
But it wasn’t just tourists on board the Sydney flight on Wednesday morning.
Umenaran was so excited to return home to Nadi to reunite with his family that he booked the earliest flight he could find as “every hour counts”.
“I used to travel [to Fiji] every three months before the lockdown …that’s why I’m on the first flight to go and see my mum and my brother,” he told SBS News.
“It’s been quite hard. I’m the oldest in the family and I look after my mum … I was worried when she was quite sick and I had no choice but to arrange doctors and nurses from here to look after her.
Source: SBS News
Rashma hasn’t seen her family in Fiji for three years, and said she feels grateful that she will be able to attend her father’s funeral in Nadi.
“My father passed away two weeks ago,” she told SBS News.
“So [it’s] just very fortunate that I’ve been able to travel to Fiji and attend the funeral.
“We have been trying to book flights for a very long time.”
From Wednesday, Fiji Airways will operate 14 flights a week, with daily flights operating from Sydney and Melbourne.
Source: SBS News
Daily Brisbane flights via Fiji Airways will commence once Queensland allows holidaying Australians to return to the state without hotel quarantine.
Airline staff said they are thrilled to be in the air again, with one Fiji Airways worker saying they had not worked in the past two years.
“This is like a dream come true being able to come back and work for Fiji Airways,” they said.
Fiji Airways chief executive Andre Viljoen said it was a “special day” for the airline after 20 “long months” of the border closure.
“The safety of our customers and staff will always be our highest priority,” he said.
“Our entire workforce is fully vaccinated … and Fiji Airways is the only airline in the Australia-Pacific region to achieve a Skytrax 5-Star COVID Safety rating as well as the highest Hospital Grade Diamond certification by APEX Health and Safety.”
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