Mere Volau has lost her livelihood — her village canteen in Covid-19-ravaged Fiji has been forced to shut up shop.
“It’s still closed. They have to come and open it because my son is positive [with Covid-19]. That’s why they closed it,” she explained to 1 NEWS.
Volau, a widow, lives with her son and his family. Her daughter-in-law has also tested positive for the virus and can’t go to work. Thankfully, her church has bought them food and the family has planted vegetables around their house.
As Covid-19 sweeps through Fiji, many residents are struggling to deal with the life-threatening virus, loss of jobs and extreme poverty.
One of the hardest-hit areas is Qauia, northwest of Suva, where numerous deaths from the virus forced it into a targeted lockdown. 1 NEWS was the first into the settlement since it re-opened a few days ago.
During Qauia’s recent lockdown, police officers stopped anyone even going out of their front door.
The 3000 people who live in the area have been hit hard by the virus, and three people living near Volau’s home have died from Covid-19.
Volau remembers one man who used to visit her shop.
“He used to come around and talk to us and we were just sitting in my shop. I was shocked when they told me that he died.”
The Qauia headman said his community had about 600 cases of Covid-19.
“We were too late, too slow to react to identify the virus within our community,” Savenaca Bulibakarua said.
The Fijian Health Ministry said about three-quarters of the target population - those above 60 years of age and pregnant women - have received one dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Sixteen per cent have received both.
However, there’s still reluctance in settlements like Qauia, where rumour and misinformation remains an issue.
Bulibakarua is hoping his community can pull together.
“It’s totally different from any other disease. It's very quick.”