Tropical Cyclone Cody is slowly moving away from Fiji but emergency management authorities say lingering heavy rain continues to create high risk for the country amid a third wave of the coronavirus.
The category 1 storm left one person dead, caused widespread flooding which forced close to 2,000 people to flee their homes and seek shelter at 110 evacuation centres activated across Fiji.
Minister for Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management Inia Seruiratu said the capital Suva was spared by Cody, but it had belted the whole of the main island Viti Levu with heavy rains since late last week.
Flash flooding was reported across the country and Seruiratu said Cody may intensify to a category 2 storm as it moved southwest out of Fiji.
"This will mean that flooding will continue to be a concern to us.
"Although weather has improved in many parts of the country, the safety of Fijians remains a top priority for the government and our officers on the ground continue to closely work with the Fiji Police Force and the National Fire Authority and other relevant stakeholders in the safe evacuation of Fijians in flood affected areas."
Nadi Town in Fiji's west. Photo / Facebook
Seruiratu said the Fiji Meteorological Service forecasted TC Cody and its associated rainfalls would affect the country throughout the week.
Already schools were shut as Cody also damaged infrastructure and other essential services.
Schools used as evacuations centres would be disinfected to ensure the safety of students when school resumed, Seruiratu said.
Fiji's Government said public health concerns remained its priority concern as it continued to encourage Fijians in low lying areas to move into the evacuation centres.
"In terms of monitoring of evacuation centres, our officers are closely working with police and the Ministry of Health to ensure the safety of all evacuees that Covid-19 protocols are strictly adhered to."
A police officer helps evacuate this baby and the family. Photo / Facebook
Seruiratu said the Health Ministry is unable to conduct Covid-19 screening among the evacuees sheltering from the flood because they couldn't be at all the centres.
But he said civil servants have mobilised to respond to the disaster including to implement Covid-19 contingency guidelines including to conduct public health and screenings.
"Together with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, we will be working to ensure communities are well informed about what needs to be done to prevent them from contracting water borne diseases," Seruiratu said.
"I also want to remind us that we are in the middle of the third wave of Covid-19. Please follow the instructions issued by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.
While evacuees are divided into two groups separated by levels of vulnerability, the MOH will take over if there are symptomatic evacuees who require medical assistance, the minister said.
Fiji had been hit hard by storms over the last few days. Photo / Facebook
The public is also being urged to prepare well for their health needs amid the threat of Cyclone Cody.
Fiji's Health Secretary James Fong said those who take medications regularly for chronic illnesses should ensure they have an adequate supply during the cyclone.
"Our task now is to find an approach that is able to control the disease incidents and the hospitalisation and that approach has to be pragmatic, ethical, and sustainable for people's livelihood," Dr Fong said.
Fiji has a total of 4429 active cases of Covid-19 in isolation, with 162 of them in serious condition in hospital.
The Covid-19 death toll is 709 – 707 of these were recorded since April this year.
Social gatherings in homes and communities are now limited to 20 people, from 100 people since December 1.
Fiji's Trade and Commerce Minister Faiyaz Koya said from Tuesday, venues approved to operate under Covid-19 protocols can host events at 80 per cent capacity.
Masking and the two-metre distancing are mandatory, Koya said.
"You should follow these rules. Not because we demand it of you or we will fine you, but because they are proven to work at protecting you from contracting Covid-19.
"So please get boosted and get back to the basics of Covid safety so we can get through this challenge together and get on with our economic recovery."
Meanwhile, momentary periods of heavy rain continue across the country with various provinces reporting record levels of rainfall.
"Tropical Cyclone Cody is slowly moving away from Fiji and as this may be good news, we must not let our guard down as the Fiji Meteorological Services has confirmed that rain would continue," Seruiratu said.
Rainfall recorded at various stations on Viti Levu exceeded 100mm on Monday, with Tailevu recording 369mm.
WeatherWatch NZ said there was a chance of Cody's remnants affecting Aotearoa's weather in a week and a 60 per cent chance of it impacting North Island beaches with increased rips, currents and swells.