Friday May 8 2020
Greetings countrymen, women and children. Welcome to another update of the PNG Government’s COVID-19 response. As usual, I will be providing an update of the security measures taken to date to assist the Health Department deliver the PNG Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the security overlay for the SOE operations the situation across the country has been generally quiet with the easing of restrictions. However, with the relaxing of alcohol restrictions we have seen an increase in domestic violence, drunken fights and assault cases. These were largely the result of binge drinking.
New alcohol restrictions
Yesterday I issued new directives restricting the sale of alcohol by major supermarkets and wholesalers on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. They have been exempted under Emergency Orders No. 10 and 28 but are now not to sell on these days. This again is in reaction to what is happening around the country.
Attitude is still our biggest concern. We have not learnt yet how to drink and until we can learn to control ourselves such measures will have to be taken. The situation across the country is generally quiet despite a number of armed holdups around the country immediately upon relaxation of the restrictions.
The biggest challenge for us, as far as the security support to the COVID-19 State of Emergency is concerned is the 760 kilometre PNG/Indonesia border. The lack of basic infrastructure to these areas and the general isolation is both a blessing and a challenge.
The SOE has enabled the Government to have more and constant presence along the north to south border than we have ever had before. Our presence has also disrupted a number of illegal activities that have been going on undetected and undeterred for some time including the drugs and guns trade.
Whilst we are stepping up security operations along the border, our key objective is to disseminate information. Information is key to the success of our COVID-19 efforts. Our security officers are disseminating COVID-19 literature to our people along the border.
We are also going on the provincial radio stations as well as targeted SMS blasting to get the message to our people along the border, and the message is for them not to cross the border into Jayapura in the north or Merauke in the south. Indonesia has almost 13,000 infected people and close to 900 deaths.
We are also stepping up on our COVID-19 Question and Answer session which attempts to provide answers from the experts to the many questions our people have.
I have delegated various powers of the Emergency Controller to the Provincial Administrators, the NCDC City Manager and the Chief Secretary to the Autonomous Bougainville Government who I have appointed as Assistant Controllers.
I will be bringing them into Port Moresby next week to impress upon them what is required of them and help them to better understand what their roles are in the overall government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an opportunity to also understand what they are experiencing in their provinces.
I have also made a number of key internal transfers within the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) hierarchy to maintain heightened security levels especially at the border areas during the COVID-19 State of Emergency (SOE) period and beyond and to improve overall policing throughout the country.
Since the commencement of the SOE almost six weeks ago we have been receiving numerous criticisms, both good and bad.
Let me again remind the people of PNG that we are being faced with a very serious threat. Whilst we have only seen eight cases, all of whom have recovered, the threat is still very much real and all precautions must be taken by everyone to take care of themselves and their loved ones.
At this point in time we do not have any evidence to determine what our next course of action will be. Hopefully, with the arrival of GeneXpert cartridges, thanks to World Health Organisation (WHO), we will now be able to do more tests in the five provinces in which the COVID-19 cases were confirmed.
From these tests we will be in a better position to be able to make informed decisions going forward.
The worst thing we can do is to relax restrictions completely and then be hit by another wave of COVID-19. You only have to look around the world to see the mistake of such decisions. Singapore is a case in point. It experienced a second surge immediately after it removed restrictions.
These are developed countries with top class health facilities and resources to take care of their people. We have 5,400 hospital beds nationwide and our health system is ill-equipped to respond to any major pandemic. Our best defence is to stop the spread.
The 34 Emergency Directions that I have issued to date all work towards creating an environment which will enable us to stop the coronavirus or COVID-19 from spreading.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Media contact: Chief Superintendent Dominic D. Kakas, BEM, DPS
Team Leader – COVID-19 Media & Public Information Joint Agency Task Force
Mobile: 75430557:Email: firstname.lastname@example.org