- Day 1 of two month State of Emergency period to assist contain the COVID-19 spread.
- Second case of COVID-19 discovered in East New Britain Province:
o 40 year old female who developed cough on 23 March and was admitted to the Nonga Hospital isolation ward three days later and treated for severe respiratory illness. She recovered and was sent home. Her tests came back positive and the standard Health response protocols were initiated. The patient has been isolated and quarantined. Follow up tests to be done on her to ensure she’s completely on the clear.
o The COVID-19 Rapid Response Team as of 4.25pm today en-route to ENB bringing supplies, test kits and a search team to now work on contact tracing. Everyone who has come into contact with the confirmed are being immediately isolated and tested.
o A team of medical experts deployed to ENB to deal with contact tracing, isolation, treatment, advise and condition with our provincial head authorities on the ground.
- As a result of the discovery of the second case I have decided as of last night on issuing the following additional Emergency Orders specific to ENB:
Lockdown of the entire East New Britain Province both land and sea borders and air for the next 21 Days effective immediately.
Restriction of Commercial flights in and out of East New Britain the exceptions on cargoes and medical/health personnel only.
Restriction of shipping except for cargoes and medical/health supplies personnel only;
Effecting immediate Road blocking between East and West New Britain Provinces along the New Britain Highway.
Eleven (11) Emergency Orders have been issued to date and include:
Emergency Orders No. 1 for Domestic and International Travel was revoked and replaced with Emergency Order No. 7 which:
* Details one airport and four ports for entry into PNG.
* No person including PNG citizens and permanent residents are allowed to enter PNG unless authorised by the Emergency Controller;
* Traditional border crossing arrangements are suspended for travel between Indonesia, Australia the Federated States of Micronesia and Solomon Islands;
* All PNG citizens and permanent residents returning to facilities will be subject to quarantined or isolation facilities in Port Moresby and arrangements will be put in place. At that junction it is our intent to repatriate some of our Papua New Guinean citizens that are overseas that have indicated that they would like to return back to the country. I would like to appeal to everyone concerned their understanding as well as their patience whilst we put all of these together. They will still be subject to quarantine or self-isolation process or COVID-19 control protocols.
* All non-PNG citizens and non-permanent residents returning to PNG by aircraft this is specifically to our fly in and fly out crews employed by mines and sites must be quarantined at a designated hotel in Port Moresby or on site, that is something we are working with those in the mining and extractive industries.
Domestic travel restrictions in general
* There’s been much talk about the roadblocks and as I said yesterday those roadblocks are in places as precautionary measures. If there is a similar case that comes to our attention as we are facing in East New Britain those roadblocks we have identified to be on the national and provincial roads will come into effect as a control measure, but at this point as I speak, those roadblocks will continue to be manned but as a precautionary measure.
Domestic travel to border provinces
* All provinces with the exception of Western province Sandaun and East Sepik and now East New Britain will continue to remain lock down and all the other provinces are free for the general public to move around. Again, only if you need too. Only reason why we are recording low number of cases thus far is because we managed to adhere to strict controls and directions from the NOC-19 and I can only encourage our people to continue to adhere to these strict controls. Only move around if you need to.
Domestic travel to provinces with confirmed cases
* It is not in the best interest of the country to have these provinces free for people to fly in and out, move in and out of those provinces hence the lockdown of those provinces.
Domestic travel to other provinces
* As we go towards the end of the week we will see a general opening up or stage progression in terms of opening up the domestic ports so those domestic airports in those four provinces we looking at a return to normalcy on the COVID-19 protocols throughout the week. By Sunday we should see a resumption of a large number of domestic routes and airlines have been advised of that.
* Flights to and from selected airports as authorized by the Controller.
* All flights to and from approved airports will meet the following requirements;
Practice hygiene and social distancing,
Passengers must have valid reason to travel;
Passenger must complete an Air Passenger Travel Approval Form.
National Emergency Order No. 2 – Business and social gatherings – outlines the conduct of business operations and socials events in the country for the duration of the SOE. This order provides for the controller or an authorized officer to implement necessary measures to maintain normal business operations and ensure social distance and self-hygiene practices are adhered to by all citizens.
National Emergency Order No. 3 – Provincial Coordination – As the Prime Minister has mentioned significant effort have been put into supporting our provincial efforts and strategies in responding appropriately to the COVID-19 pandemic. National emergency order No. 3 basically relates to provincial coordination and establishment of the Provincial Coordination team and appoints the three leads, Provincial Administrators, heads of Provincial Health Authority and the Provincial Police Commanders. And in the case of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, the Chief Secretary ARB and the Chief of Police of Bougainville Police Service.
National Emergency Order No. 4 – Continuance of public utility services – directs that all essentials public utility and we have significant consultation with them over the last 48 hours, services such as electricity, water, sewerage and garbage, postal services, telecommunications, fire service and motor vehicle licensing and other regulatory authorities to continue their services throughout the SOE over the next two months.
National Emergency Order No. 5 – Government employee protection. We continue to maintain the position that public servants continue to be retained on government payroll. There are some discussions with the Department of Labour and Industries as to what is the appropriate actions to take going forward. We’ve had discussions again with the Secretary for Personnel Management to see how we can utilise those that are not essential staff to come and assist in the COVID-19 response team. The Controller further directs that all government employees to continue being paid during the State of Emergency period.
National Emergency Order No. 6 – Gives effect to the preceding Emergency Orders 1-5.
National Emergency Order No. 8 – for educational institutions – to capture the intent and for most intent of government to have schools remain closed up until April 27th.
National Emergency Order No. 9 – for public transportation. As we journey to normalcy, specific COVID protocols and restrictions that will be imposed on public motor vehicles or public transport. This will require a reduction in the capacity of passengers the PMV is allowed to carry. This again we are working through with the Department of Transport and Road Traffic Authority to make sure that this comes into effect in a reasonable period of time. The SOE Controller directs that 25-30 seater public transport vehicles may continue only if passengers are limited to 15. Other smaller public transport vehicles to carry 5 persons less than the allowed capacity and taxis to limit to 2 passengers only.
National Emergency Order No. 10 – for restriction of sale of alcohol – directs no person or venue shall sell liquor for the duration of the National Emergency except,
o Hotels, and restaurant with valid liquor license,
o Major supermarkets with a valid liquor license,
o Wholesale with a valid liquor license who may only sell to major supermarkets, hotels, restaurants with valid license.
Alcohol sold by any premises exempted may only be consumed on the premises on which it is sold.
National Emergency Order No. 11 – for procurement of certain goods – directs the purposes of this emergency the Controller or his delegate shall allow only the NOC-19 be permitted through the controller to buy to buy or procure goods listed in the schedule as restricted goods and include surgical masks and other health equipment/goods essential for the health emergency.
- As for security updates, Police and PNGDF are here to provide the security overlay for the PNG Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Concept of Operations by large remains the same as we transition from the initial 14 days to what lies ahead for the next 2 months under the SOE. It is based on providing security assistance to NDOH carry out health intervention modalities to response to COVID-19.
- As of 6th of April the following assets have been deployed in support of the PNG Government COVID-19 response, based on the current assessment that the 780 km land border areas remain the biggest threat to PNG:
o 125 PNGDF personnel have been deployed to Vanimo. Number should increase to 147 by today;
o Next 24 hours PNGDF troops to be deployed to Wutung, Bewani/Schotiao and Greenriver;
o PNG Defence Force naval vessels and Police to patrol the seas;
o 92 security personnel deployed to Kiunga including Weam Post and the number is expected to beef up to 149 men;
o In the next 48 hours medical personnel as well as security personnel of 20 to be deployed to the Gulf Province.
o In total 2,118 security personnel on operations and ready to support the SOE operations.
Education and awareness are key to successful outcomes for the Government response to COVID-19. Materials are being produced both in English and Bahasa for the border areas.
Going forward, key strategies for the Government response now is to:
- Identify and isolate suspected cases;
- Look for facilities that can be used for isolation and quarantine;
- Identify ways to prevent us from getting COVID-19 we must acknowledge the fact that COVID-19 is already here in PNG:
It is now time to strengthen our collective defenses. Our health team will be putting out messages on how to deal with the issue should we be infected.
Stop discrimination and stigmatization. Being infected is not a death sentence nor should it be seen as a conviction of guilt.
Develop a culture of supportive community. And for PNG and Melanesia this is second nature to us. Care and compassion for those who are infected are very much needed at this time. We cannot guarantee this is the last COVID-19 case but what we can appeal to our people as we go through this together we must be seen as sympathetic or having some empathy for those who are unfortunate to have contracted the COVID-19.