COVID-19: Fijian health expert says enforcing a lockdown borderline impossible

As the COVID-19 crisis grips Fiji, one of the island nation's top health professionals says he doesn't know how he could implement a lockdown - even if New Zealand was to fully fund it. 

Dr James Fong, the head of the Pacific nation’s Ministry of Health, told Newshub on Thursday he doesn't think the crisis has peaked yet - even as Fiji records a rolling seven-day average of close to 1500 cases daily. 

But as the virus takes hold, Fong says he's at a loss as to how to stop the spread, as many people live communally and are resistant to the conditions of a lockdown.

"Their social habits are an issue that is not easy to tame - we have tried, and we have met a lot of resistance," he said.

"Even if we paid them and asked them to stay in their bubbles there are certain social-cultural habits that people find really difficult to not comply with."

He says even if New Zealand fully funded the lockdown, paying Fijians to stay home, there's a chance it wouldn't work - and it would be very difficult to enforce it.

"I'm at a loss as to how to install punitive measures and how to execute them to the scale to stop people moving. Do we have enough jail space, court space? Can the system function well enough to implement strong punitive measures to ensure people stay still?"

The outbreak has killed 113 people so far, with 17 other deaths under investigation to determine whether they were COVID-19 related.

Newshub contacted Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama for comment, but he declined, saying Dr. Fong's advice is good enough.