The Prime Minister, Hon. James Marape, assured the country that the people’s freedom of movement is a fundamental right, which is protected under the National Constitution.
Mr Marape said this following the release of a measure by the Controller of the COVID-19 National Coordination Centre that purports to restrict any unvaccinated persons from travelling domestically.
“ The Government is not about to undermine this right in any way. “At the same time, the Government takes full responsibility to ensure that COVID-19, and any variants of the virus, is prevented from spreading to other parts of the country. “It is a fundamental responsibility of any government to protect its citizens from harm. The spread of the virus through people movement is a continuing concern as long as the virus continues to exist in our midst.
“We are still in the middle of a pandemic and we still have a responsibility to ensure that the virus does not spread. The virus does not spread by itself. People spread the virus.” Mr Marape said he control of people movement locally and on inter provincial travel is therefore a fundamental strategy to take control of this spread.
“ It is not designed to curtail freedom of movement as a fundamental right, but a strategy to minimize the spread of the virus. It is no different to the lockdown imposed in 2020 and in early 2021. “This is why we locked the country down in March 2020, and this is why we may have to consider banning overseas flights again so that we secure our borders from the delta variant virus,” the Prime Minister said.
He added that the Government has long recognized the fragile state of the country’s health systems and the capacity of the provinces to cope with any surge in the virus. “ Controlled movement of people is the only way we can lock down parts of the country and isolate the vulnerable provinces from the incursion of the virus through domestic travel. Our people’s lives are at risk and we must take responsibility.
“We must take strong responsibility to address the health ramifications of the virus but at the same time ensure its effects on the economic landscape is minimized as much as possible,” he said. He says that the Government continues to hold out that taking the vaccine is a personal choice, adding that personal choices must also not interfere with the rights of other individuals to pursue the right to live.
“These are the balancing acts that we have to make. If our personal choices place someone else’s choice to good health and life in jeopardy, what sort of responsibility should we have? “My Government continues to emphasize that taking the vaccine is not mandatory. But if exercising your choice interferes with someone else’s right to be healthy and well, then we have to take some responsibility. Your personal choices come with responsibilities to your family, your community and your country,” PM Marape said.
He encouraged those who are willing to take the vaccine to go ahead and visit facilities around the country offering vaccines. Those vaccinated will be freer to move around with less protocols including overseas those who want to take trips abroad. “Those who do not want to take the vaccine must continue to live in a responsible manner ensuring their own safety and safety of those they contact.”
The Prime Minister welcomed the review of the measure that caused an uproar in the social media and with commentators. He said that the larger picture is to control the movement and spread of the virus.
“The National Pandemic Act 2020 allows the Controller to make independent calls based on expert advice on COVID-19 trends and assessments, we have encouraged him to be balanced to ensure that we allow responsible flow of passengers domestically but consider other measures including imposing that all incoming passengers on international flights to demonstrate having taken the vaccines. “The revised measure has recognized that anyone who has been vaccinated now has unlimited choices to travel domestically. We want to encourage more people to be unlimited in their travel options,” the Prime Minister said.