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Local returns from Fiji with warning for New Zealand

Ian Martin has returned from a trip to Fiji with a warning. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

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Ian Martin had a dream holiday planned.

He and his wife were going to Fiji to experience the best of the island paradise.

Fast forward four days: they’re back in Gladstone, having just made it on the last flight out of the Pacific nation.

They’re now self-isolating, protecting their neighbours from potential infection with covid-19; it’s a virus they think Kiwis hadn’t been taking seriously enough, prior to the government’s recent border lockdown.

While wary of the global pandemic, Martin assumed that the government would prohibit travel if it was unsafe, and proceeded, perhaps naively, to Fiji.

Despite the disruptions to the aviation industry, he and his wife assumed that the exception to Pacific Island travel that had been in place meant that the countries were still safe, and that they were still able to go. A reasonable assumption.

What they experienced in Fiji was in stark contrast to the normality they felt had been projected by domestic TV news.

“We get over there, and there’s no tourism coming in the place, there’s no people coming in, the place is dead.

“And we were there two days and then they go: ‘Right you’ve got to get out of there, we’ve got the last flight going out tomorrow and you’ve got to get on it’. So, we were just thinking: ‘what’s going on?’”

The only flights out were going to Auckland, not Wellington, leaving the couple frantically checking flight carriers operating services out of our northernmost city.

“At the borders, there seemed to be a lot of people who didn’t seem to be taking it at all seriously,” Martin said, a little dismayed. “I don’t know if everyone fully understands.

“You have to go through a government checkpoint and answer all these questions, and then they just let you go.

“And once you’re through the gate, the airport was putting out notices asking to please stand a metre away from people, asking them to self-isolate.

“But how can you self-isolate in an airport full of people? You’d sit down somewhere on your own, and people would sit next to you.

“And then you leave the airport and get back on a plane full of people.”

Now crowded in with numerous different groups returning from Fiji, in a packed airport swamped with cancellations, with many of these people, Martin included, continuing on to different areas of New Zealand from Auckland, the lack of ability to control anti-viral measures became palpable for the Carterton residents.

“My main concern is that I don’t believe New Zealanders have gotten to grips with how serious this is.

“I just don’t. It is a big deal, and I don’t know why our government didn’t shut the border two weeks ago.

“They must have known more, they must have done. They should’ve shut it. Not let us out and back in again.

“On Fijian TV, everywhere they had it on, their stations were telling you what was going on in the rest of the world. We saw more on their TV than what we were seeing on the TV at home.

“A lot of stuff was almost all about the virus: Fiji had its first case when we were there, it was discovered in Lautoka. I believe it’s their second biggest town. They’ve shut it down. The whole town is shut down, isolated. because of that one person! And I think: ‘good on ‘em. They did well’.”

Martin’s experience is a cautionary tale, shedding a light on a potential disconnect between the message provided by some sections of New Zealand’s domestic TV news and the seriousness of the Covid-19 crisis.

This is not business as usual, and, for a number of people, the seriousness of this statement hasn’t been made apparent.

He concludes with a message to his fellow Kiwis: “If I can say something to local people, please just be careful”.


  1. Thank you Mr Ian Martin. After reading your article, I can notice the slow reaction of those responsible to take quick actions to protect the ports of entries at airports and seaports. May be the reason of doing it is about money. Usually we see custom officers and other government officers only care about goods coming into the countries and not much on people’s health. It is about time we introduce some measures to check the health status of people coming into our country by getting a GP certificate of the traveller 24 hours before boarding the flight and also go through another health check at the point of dismemberment. The traveller to meet the cost of his or her medical check. Thank you.

  2. When NZ Govt locked down our borders, “EXCEPT TO PACIFIC ISLANDS”, I had an anxiety attack.
    I thought, Why? Sounds dumb to me! Pacific Islands thrive on tourism, bringing in travellers from all over the world.

    Any Kiwi having contact with Pacific Island natives or travellers will now be at higher-risk for becoming Covid19 positive in NZ.

    Especially concerning are variations in the incubation period. Some schools of thought, not yet adopted by the WHO, are saying this Covid19 virus does not have a proven fixed incubation period of 14 days.

    A variant or mutating strain could have a 24 day incubation period. So a 4 week National lockdown makes total sense. Those who got infected 2 days ago may be asymptomatic for almost a month, and just beginning to show symptoms at the time when we think we can ease up on isolation after 4wks.

    Those month-long incubators on 2 legs could show up positive at the end of this 4 wk shutdown, but all this time in isolation no one knew they were positive.

    Hence, we will still be at risk of a 2nd wave after a flattening curve. It only takes just one positive case from travellers who were brought home from the Pacific Islands.

    The Project-Ch 3 after Newshub projected that just one positive case can infect 59,000 in a few weeks.

    Sorry to be a doomsayer, but I seriously doubt we will reach 100% negative cases in only 4 weeks. Pacific Islanders and their travellers don’t have specific immunity to CV. They also congregate in masses, and 3 or 4 generations often live together with large extended families.

    Now, I’m not racist okay! I have Pacific Island relatives who mostly live in Auckland. They’re frequent church goers. When group gatherings was restricted by Govt to 100, that was 100 too many for me.

    The issue became personal when my 70 yr old sibling travelled down the North Island on a bus to New Plymouth. Her own grown children and her grandchildren had been attending these big (100 is still too big) church services in South Auckland. The church was full of Kiwi Pacific Islanders. Due to the congregation being reduced to 100, they bumped up the number of services to 5 per day. The kids volunteered their
    help between the services wiping pews, armrests. But hymn book pages, nor the air can be sanitized. Singing together produces more droplets.

    Total National shutdown on Alert Level 4, happened only 2 days after the last church service. 500 attended on that day.

    Out of 500 gathered in church, considering a potential 24 day incubation period, there could be dozens of positive cases that may remain asymptomatic for the next month, only to emerge after this 4 wk shutdown.

    Five days before the National State of Emergency shutdown, I had another reason for anxiety. I had an immune reaction, I believe to mould exposure…all the symptoms of Covid19, but a small fever ( under 38C), mild sore throat, half a day of chills, aching all over, feeling like a lump of lead, and a dry hacking cough. I could not get a clinic doctor appointment for 2 weeks.

    Called first, then visited two hospital emergency rooms within 3 days. Detailing my symptoms over the phone, I was triaged both times to drive in and be seen.

    On the 2nd ER visit in a different town I was met at the entrance by a National Guard while we were on Alert Level 3. She would not let me in until I answered a number of questions. She wrote nothing down.

    “Have you been overseas?”- No. “Have you been in contact with anyone whose recently returned from overseas?” No… but I’ve been in contact with a sibling from South Auckland who has Pacific Island children and grandchildren, who are all very involved as a family in church services with a congregation of 100 and services bumped up to 5 times a day. There is a large number of Pacific Island congregants.

    Okay, you can proceed to A&E now.

    I was not given a Covid19 virus test, despite having almost all of the mild CV symptoms. I was discharged both times with different inhalers for cough type asthma – but something I’ve not had for 8 years. Still, to err on the side of caution, I self isolated right after my symptoms appeared, and upon Emergency room discharges except to go to my pharmacy for this deadline flu shot to boost my immune system when I need it most. I also called my doctor and asked them to order a once in a lifetime pneumonia shot for my next visit on 2 weeks. This CV kills by causing pneumonia and other organ failures.

    However, I’m a bit shocked I was not advised by doctors and A&E staff at 2 hospitals to self isolate. There is a lack of instruction here when they had the opportunity.

    I quizzed my A&E discharge doctors and nurses…

    “How do you know I’m not CV positive?” They really didn’t know for sure without a lab test. Despite my age, I could be a mild case.

    The first Emergency doctor said she thought I had a virus, but not COVID19.

    3 days later, the 2nd Emergency doctor thought I had “a cough”, for which she gave me an inhaler.

    As a 71 year old retired nurse, I knew she must’ve been thinking my chest condition was a cough- type-asthma.

    No one asked me to return for a COVID19 test when kits arrive.

    No one asked me who my South Auckland Pacific Island relatives were, nor to identify which large (100) church services they attended out of the 5 services per day.

    We all dont know for sure, if I’m one of the positive CV cases. But I’m doing everything right from my side. I think the medical clinics and A&E should be making us fill out contact forms, particularly after revealing higher risk contacts from the Pacific Islands who have gathered in groups of 100, up until 3 days ago.

    I’ve offered to volunteer (when I get over this cough) as a retired nurse to get clinic visitors to fill out contact forms and to give vaccines.

    I worked in USA giving 150 shots a day to church group for years. But my help has been declined due to being an “elderly person” now at 71. I still cant get over being regarded as an old person, but I still have some use and value left to offer in this crisis.

    Afterall, New York and Britain are calling back to work retired doctors and nurses. If they retired at age 65, most of them will be about my vintage. We might be antique, but our lifetime of skills makes us valuable still to help keep people alive.

    I might as well just throw in and name drop, that I was once Lady Clementine Spencer Churchill’s private nurse in London after her husband Winston Churchill died.

    Some of us want to help where medical skills are needed, but we’re being turned away here. My GP has a month’long waiting list to be seen, hence my two different A&E visits. I am concerned, after these experiences recently, that our medical facilities and capacities are not ready and we dont have the ICU level hospital beds and ventilators, nor staff who know how to run them.

    So best we go hard and fast to outsmart and outpace this viral warmonger with this 4 week lockdown. We all have jobs to do…follow all the rules, laws and advise given by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. If anyone feels this is not that bad, a joke, or not taking it “deadly seriously” they might want to remember this: On Ch 3-The Project tonight, a respiratory Doctor on the front lines in London left a scary parting truth. If your loved ones are sick enough to be admitted to hospital that’s the last time you’ll see them”.

    We are asked to all do our part these next 4 weeks of shutdown.
    If we don’t, these 4 weeks will be extended for sure, due to new positive cases breaking out, some from carelessness, recklessness and selfishness.

    We each need to help PM Jacinda
    STARVE THE VIRUS (to death).


    It takes each and every one of us.
    Just one positive case left…
    can start a second wave,
    And who wants that?


    See you soon on the other side of this fence when we can shake hands again, and say we all did it together.

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