Shuttered in March 2020, Fiji Celebrates a 'Momentous Day'

Fiji is once again open to tourists, for first time in nearly 2 years
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2021 6:21 AM CST
For First Time in 2 Years, Tourists Head to Fiji
In this photo, guests receive a traditional Fijian welcome as they arrive at Nadi International Airport in Fiji on Wednesday.   (Bruce Rounds/Tourism Fiji via AP)

Since March 2020, the island nation of Fiji has had its doors shuttered to tourists, in an attempt to keep COVID from overwhelming the limited medical services available to its 1 million residents. On Wednesday, nearly two years after the tourism-dependent country's shutdown, locals once again started to welcome visitors, despite the recent emergence of the omicron variant, reports Reuters. "Welcome to this very momentous day," Fiji Airways CEO Andre Viljoen says, per the Australian AP. "We have been waiting for this day for the past 20 months."

Tourists are allowed inside Fiji's borders from a small number of countries only, including the US and Australia, and there are restrictions: Visitors will have to hunker down in an approved resort for three nights and take a rapid COVID test. They'll also be permitted to only visit certain venues, such as bars and restaurants within their OKed accommodations; day trips and other activities are limited. Viljoen adds that Fiji's flagship airline is trying to fend off the arrival of omicron by screening passengers to make sure they hadn't recently been to any high-risk areas.

While Fiji wasn't as severely affected by the virus as some other parts of the world—it saw its first major outbreak in April, when the delta variant arrived—its tourism-driven economy took a hard hit, prompting the government to offer the unemployed money and resources to transition into other jobs, such as farming. Now, with 90% of adults fully vaccinated and visitors once more allowed, Fijians are breathing a small sigh of relief. Tourism Fiji CEO Brent Hill says about 75,000 tourists have already planned their trips there over the next couple of months. "Our message to every fully vaccinated, COVID-tested [traveler] who arrives to our shores is simple: Welcome Home," Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama wrote on Facebook. (More Fiji stories.)

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