Aussie holiday favourite frozen in COVID nightmare
FIJI is an island paradise frozen in time.
The once bustling tourist mecca has ground to halt, with resorts abandoned and villagers struggling to survive.
Tourist operators are desperate for travellers to be able to return, but recent COVID outbreaks and new lockdown zones have plunged the South Pacific nation into a longer period of uncertainty.
The island has been divided into three containment zones with a 6pm to 4am curfew, with locals only able to access supermarkets and pharmacies, while Suva, the country's capital, is currently in a complete four-day lockdown.
Struggling locals are being given a $90 cash payment from the government to help buy food.
Locals told the Sunday Mail hundreds of thousands of workers had lost their jobs, forcing them back to their villages to fend for themselves.
One local man who wouldn't be named said prior to the recent lockdown, morale was still high, but this latest hit would take its toll.
High-end resorts and hotels which are usually booked out all year round were forced to shut their doors to travellers at the end of March 2020 and still have no idea when they can reopen.
After four months, hotels such as Castaway Island and Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort were allowed to reopen to the Fijian public, to provide some financial relief.
"We were also able to re-employ staff who were sent home on a reduced salary during the months of closures," Ben Johnson from Outrigger and Castaway Island said.
But he said the return of Australians to the island would be vital, with their presence making up 80 per cent of guest capacity prior to the pandemic.
Mr Johnson said things were only predicted to return to normal once international border restrictions eased or new travel bubbles emerged.
He said three months without income was tough for the resort, with security and maintenance still needed during the shutdown.
Mr Johnson said both resorts have employed a full-time hygiene manager.
Staff at both resorts have also received their first COVID vaccinations.
He said the return of the inbound market runs far deeper than a commercial point of view.
"Tourist money translates into Fijians feeding their families, educating their kids and supporting their elders," he said.
"Of course we're all concerned for our own properties, but our overriding concern is for Fiji."
Originally published as Aussie holiday favourite frozen in COVID nightmare