COVID-19 and Fiji- A case study

Dean, Mohseen, R, U (2020) COVID-19 and Fiji- A case study. Covid-19 and Fiji- A case study, 90 (1). pp. 96-106. ISSN ocea.5272


The global COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect Fiji beyond public health, in profound ways. The indirect effects of the pandemic in Fiji coalesce primarily around social, economic, and political issues, presenting individuals, organizations, and communities with livelihood challenges for years to come. With the closure of state borders and ships ceasing to sail, Fiji’s supply chains have been disrupted, and food insecurity has increased. Displaced individuals and households are becoming refugees of the COVID-19 crisis. Some businesses (specifically Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises) are closing, while others are
suffering losses, with workers being laid off. Fijian households, including both indigenous families and those of Indian descent, face uncertainties and the already vulnerable are turning into extremely vulnerable community members. To explore the experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic in Fijian society, this research adopted a qualitative approach and utilized the following research instruments:
(a) virtual ethnography, i.e. keeping track of activities and updates on social media sites such as
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as the COVID-19 situation evolved in Fiji,
(b) participant observation, and
(c) people shadowing, to gain a deeper understanding of how different segments of the Fijian society behaved and responded to the situation as it advanced, and
(d) informal interviews with ten individuals who were randomly selected from households
along the Suva-Nausori corridor. Six females and four males participated in the informal
interview component of this research. The youngest participant was a 28-year-old female of iTaukei origin while the eldest was a 54-year-old female, also of iTaukei origin. In the present research, my identity was somewhat ambiguous, as both an ‘insider’ and an ‘outsider’ of the research community. As a Fijian citizen and faced with the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic as much as my fellow country folks, I was to a large extent, positioned in this research as an ‘insider’. On the other hand, I was also an ‘outsider’, approaching the community as a professional international civil servant working as Head of
Community Research and Ethnographic Solutions Mapping with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Accelerator Lab, Pacific.2 I present the material according to the four phases that have been widely noted for the COVID-19 pandemic:
(i) identification and acknowledgement of the virus in mainland
China by the World Health Organization (WHO),
(ii) virus imports to Fiji,
(iii) community
transmission, and
(iv) containment.

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