Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase holds an impromtu press conference outside his office in Suva, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2006. Prime Minister Qarase maintains that his government still is in control of Fiji. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING

COVID-19 did not claim the life of former Fijian PM Laisenia Qarase

AAP FactCheck May 4, 2020

The Statement

As the COVID-19 global death toll continues to rise, a social media post claims former Fijian prime minister Laisenia Qarase died from the coronavirus.

A Facebook post claims that Mr Qarase “died from Covid-19 after trying to hide his illness in fear that he would be evicted by his country and families if found out, a family member has revealed.

“By the time he took himself to hospital earlier last week, his condition was becoming critical and he was placed on a ventilator.

“He died this week shortly after his family saw him unconscious in a final video call arranged,” the April 23 post claims.

The post by a Fijian Facebook user has been viewed more than 28,000 times and attracted more than 140 comments and 20 shares.

A Facebook post
 A Facebook post claims former Fijian prime minister Laisenia Qarase died from the coronavirus. 

The Analysis

Laisenia Qarase was Fiji’s sixth prime minister, serving two terms from 2001-2006. Born in the village of Mavana on the island of Vanuabalavu, he studied commerce at the University of Auckland in New Zealand before embarking on a career in Fiji’s civil service.

Mr Qarase served in the ministries of Finance, Commerce and Industry and Public Service. He also served as chairman of the country’s first television company, Fiji Television and was a director of the Fiji Development Bank.

Mr Qarase won parliamentary elections in 2001 and 2006 before he was removed from power after a military coup in December 2006. He was jailed in 2012 for abusing his office and failing to perform his duties.

On April 21, the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation reported Mr Qarase had died and that the FBC was told by family members that he had been admitted to Suva’s Oceania Hospital the previous week “following a short illness”.

Also on April 21, Fiji-based TV network Mai TV reported that Mr Qarase’s spokesperson confirmed the 79-year-old former prime minister’s death. The report also said he passed away at Oceania Hospital in Suva “following a short illness”.

The Facebook post claims Mr Qarase died from COVID-19 but the World Health Organization reports that, as of May 3, there have been no confirmed deaths from the coronavirus in Fiji. The report lists 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Fiji and that it has been 12 days since the last reported COVID-19 case for the Pacific nation.

In a statement on April 24, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said none of Fiji’s confirmed cases of coronavirus were over the age of 65. Mr Qarase was 79 when he died.

Former Fijian prime minister Laisenia Qarase
┬áLaisenia Qarase was Fiji’s sixth prime minister, who served two terms from 2001-2006.┬á

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post to be false. The post claims former Fijian prime minister Laisenia Qarase died from COVID-19, however World Health Organization data as of May 3, 2020, lists no confirmed coronavirus deaths in Fiji. Three days after 79-year-old Mr Qarase’s death on April 21, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said there had been no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Fiji for anyone over the age of 65.

False – The primary claims of the content are factually inaccurate or misleading.

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