A non-government organisation in Fiji says the country is gripped by "panic" as a downturn in tourism has left half the working population out of a job.
While Fiji is currently virus-free, having only recorded 27 cases of COVID-19 and no deaths, the islands have been devastated by the collapse of the tourism industry, which employs around 150,000 people and fuels the nation's economy.
Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND), a local group that offers food and work support to those affected by the pandemic, said around half the country's breadwinners are currently unemployed due to the pandemic and running out of options.
While the Fijian Government has offered assistance to workers in formal tourism jobs, informal workers such as taxi drivers, domestic workers, fishermen and farmers who also rely on tourism have no safety net, Radio New Zealand reported.
FRIEND chief executive Sashi Kiran told the broadcaster over the past week, it had received more than 1000 applications for help, especially around the tourism hub of Nadi on the main island.
The surge followed the recent release of Fiji's national budget, which has been criticised for prioritising business recovery over people who have lost income.
"So now we're seeing panic," Ms Kiran said. "We've opened a Google form to allow people to apply for food rations and in the last month we've seen a huge spike, especially from Nadi."
FRIEND supplies food packs to families that include large quantities of rice, flour, lentils, biscuits, sugar, salt and soap.
But Ms Kiran said the food banks were being overrun and people were now being given seedlings of plant crops that could be grown in small spaces, so they could grow their own food.
Along with the rest of the Pacific region, the economic impact of the pandemic has hit harder than the disease itself in Fiji. Australia and New Zealand travellers comprise about 50 per cent of all travellers to the Pacific region.
Earlier this month Fiji proposed a "Bula Bubble" travel arrangement with Australia and New Zealand, that would allow residents of both countries to travel to Fiji as long as they returned a negative virus test before arriving, and quarantined for 14 days either at home or in a Fijian hotel.
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said travellers would be required to limit their movement around the country to specially approved reports, transport and hotels.
"Working with Fiji Airways and Tourism Fiji, we'll be welcoming Aussies and Kiwis to holiday in Fiji in a manner that is carefully controlled and safely insulated," he said.
"Everywhere they go will be wholly dedicated to others who match the same criteria, safely guided by what we're calling 'VIP lanes', allowing them to vacation in paradise."
Mr Bainimarama has also proposed a plan to attract cashed-up "VIP" travellers to help inject some much-needed funds into the country's depleted economy.
"So, say you're a billionaire looking to fly your own jet, rent your own island, and invest millions of dollars in Fiji in the process. If you've taken all the necessary health precautions and borne all associated costs, you may have a new home to escape the pandemic in paradise," Mr Bainimarama said in a June tweet.