COVID-19: Anti-lockdown protests break out in Fiji as people run out of food

Anti-lockdown protests have broken out in Fiji, where its worsening COVID crisis has now become a humanitarian one.

Residents of Nadi are angry about a lockdown and lack of food in their region. Aid workers say children are going hungry because their parents can't work.

Starving and angry, residents of Nawaka in Nadi took to the streets on Saturday, despite rising COVID cases in their town.

"If the government wants to do another two weeks lockdown, they should bring us food," one protester said.

Lockdown means Fijians can't go to work - they have no income to buy food and supplies.

An aid worker says the COVID crisis there has turned into another kind of crisis.

"Parents are sleeping hungry so they can have at least some food for the next day for their children, and in some cases they are just living off water or tea," says Shairana Ali, from Save The Children Fiji.

New Zealanders have donated $36,000 to Save the Children in the past week, to deliver food parcels to 1000 families.

But demand is expected to triple.

"We do anticipate that the numbers will increase to more than probably 2000-3000 people," Ali says.

Fiji's been battling a deadly COVID outbreak for almost two months - with 51 cases reported on Friday, it's only getting worse. So too is the economic impact.

"People have not been able to work, they are not earning, and whatever savings they had, they have already exhausted," Ali says.

It's front of mind for Fiji's Prime Minister - Frank Bainimarama poured cold water on calls for a month-long lockdown of the entire main island, saying it would cause irreparable damage.

"People's jobs may never return, we'd suffer structural unemployment through the permanent loss of industries and I cannot allow that to happen and I will not," he said.

But he is urging people to follow the rules in cluster containment zones, after 57 people were arrested for drunkenly breaking them in the past 24 hours.