As Papua New Guinea’s near neighbour, Australia, sees panic buying and mass event cancellations, PNG’s government and state-owned entities are using its global head start to set up a raft of new measures.
In an address to the nation this week, Papau New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape said that despite not a single case of the global pandemic arriving in the Pacific nation, it was not squandering its time.
‘We have to continue to be on high alert, as the risk of COVID-19 entering Papua New Guinea, just like the rest of our region and the world, is very high,’ Marape said. ‘The PNG Government, since January, has recognised this threat to our country and we have started our preparedness measures. We have a team of dedicated health experts and professionals who are working round-the-clock to ensure we have measures in place to prevent, detect, manage and treat any case of COVID-19.’
Air Niugini is in many ways at the forefront of the virus as the national air carrier and it has recently updated a range of on board practises.
‘To protect PNG from the spread of the disease, Air Niugini is also regularly updating and cancelling flights from destinations with high infection rates.’
To protect PNG from the spread of the disease, Air Niugini is regularly updating and cancelling flights from destinations with high infection rates, replacing headrest covers on every trip through Port Moresby and using enhanced screening processes in ports where they are necessary.
‘Our senior leaders are meeting regularly to discuss our ongoing response and ensure we have the latest information from health authorities,’ Air Niugini Managing Director, Alan Milne, said in a statement. ‘We have also updated our booking policy for our passengers with international bookings that wish to change their travel due to COVID-19.’
The airline has made a range of alternatives available to concerned passengers and suggests talking to the airline if you are unsure of what to do.
In an effort to prevent COVID-19 arriving by sea, James Marape announced that sea arrivals would be confined to the three declared ports of Motukea (Port Moresby), Lae and Rabaul with ‘severe penalties on overseas sailing into any unauthorised ports’.
Marape also said that the country was gearing up for early testing, a key strategy in containing the virus successfully, with testing ready to go in Port Moresby and Madang within two weeks.
There is also a ban on any vessel, cruise ship or yacht, with more than 15 people arriving in PNG, and public servants will be banned from overseas travel for 60 days.
‘The number one myth it debunks is that COVID-19 cannot be spread in hot and humid climates.’
Travellers from Italy, Iran, South Korea and mainland China are also subject to a ban, until they have completed a 14-day quarantine outside of PNG. On Tuesday, Marape announced that the country will be ‘scaling down flights, as off Sunday next week for a trial of two weeks’ and will cease flights in and out from Hong Kong, Philippines, Narita (Japan), Sydney, Honiara and Nadi; there will also be controlled entry for travellers from Brisbane, Cairns and Singapore.
The Ministry of Health is following its Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan which it put into place a couple of weeks ago which is an evolving document that recognises how swiftly the situation is changing.
In the past few days, some of the panic-buying behaviour and general concern has reached PNG’s shores despite no cases yet being detected. So what can locals do to help stop the spread of the virus?
One key message is that spreading misinformation is helping the disease to be passed on, so a visit to the World Health Organisation’s Mythbusters page is a good first step. The number one myth it debunks is that COVID-19 cannot be spread in hot and humid climates. It can, so PNG is not immune.
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