21st April 2020: Controller to relax restrictions as PNG heads into “new normal”

  • Fellow Papua New Guineans, residents and citizens overseas.
  • I am pleased to provide you with another situation update on the PNG Governments response to the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Work at the Joint Agency Task Force National Operations Centre is progressing despite the quarantine of staff following the positive case of a frontline responder working here at the NOC.
  • Following that incident 121 tests from the NOC as well as 4 from other centres have returned negative.
  • About 550 samples collected from close contact of the first NCD case, including family members, work colleagues and staff at the NOC were collected over the weekend and are currently undergoing tests in Brisbane.
  • I call upon everyone around the country to take responsibility for their own health and for those around them by simply practising the health messages that we have been constantly stressing: wash your hands, cough into your elbow, maintain physical distancing, avoid crowds and stay at home to stop the spread.
  • PNG is part of the global COVID-19 statistics so in case you think this is not serious I invite you to listen to the figures:
  • In the last 24 hours there has been 72,846 new cases;
  • Total confirmed cases so far globally are 2,314,621. This includes the 72,846 new cases.
  • In the last 24 hours there were 5,296 new deaths.
  • Totals deaths to date is 157,847. This is an increase of 5,296 new deaths over the last 24 hours.
  • Closure to home in the Western Pacific region the following new cases were reported within the last 24 hours:

o Australia with 6,612 confirmed new cases and 70 deaths;

o Philippines with 6,259 confirmed new cases and 409 deaths;

o Singapore with 6,588 confirmed new cases and 11 deaths;

o New Zealand with 1,105 confirmed new cases and 12 deaths; and

o Our closest neighbour Indonesia with 6,575 confirmed new cases and 327 deaths.

  • In Papua New Guinea, e have collected 1,521 samples and tested 559 persons;
  • Out of this 552 persons have tested negative;
  • Total number of tests pending laboratory results is 962
  • Total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to date is 7 and this includes the repatriated case we have recorded in the country.
  • In order to ensure that we contain the spread of COVID-19 the government is taking all measures to have in place the testing equipment and facilities as well as making available PPEs to frontline responders.
  • At this point in time PNG has the capacity to do 900 tests per day between the PNG Institute of Medical Research, Central Public Health Laboratory and the Medical School.
  • Whilst we are waiting for the supply of reagents we have outsourced our testing to reputable Australian laboratories, specifically in Brisbane and a referral laboratory in Melbourne, Victoria.
  • For our response efforts we are currently focusing on the border provinces, and also prioritising for the contact tracing for the positive COVID-19 cases of East New Britain, NCD and Western Provinces.
  • For the Western Province, a team was deployed to assist with contact tracing and other preventative measures. All have been advised to isolate in villages.
  • 152 samples collected so far in Western Province from close contact of the three positives cases. This includes samples for the second testing for three first cases. These were sent to Brisbane this morning.
  • In the East New Britain province 152 samples were also collected which includes 63 samples from contact tracing of the second confirmed case. An additional 450 samples have been collected from five lock-down villages in the province.
  • In the NCD, 691 samples were collected from colleagues and family of the first NCD case.
  • Across the border to Indonesia we have PNG prisoners in Jayapura who have been released today and arrangements have been made for them to be brought back into the country after 21 days of quarantine.
  • Going forward, COVID-19 is here. We have to be prepared now to live life with the coronavirus. This is the transition into the “new normal” way of life in the context of COVID-19. The new normal will guide us to put in place various measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Instead of allowing ourselves to be restricted by the pandemic I have now decided to relax some of the restrictions imposed earlier to contain and prevent the spread COVID-19 in the city:
  • I have proposed in the coming days orders I will be issuing to be relaxed includes:

o Resumption of classes for University and tertiary level on Monday 27th April.

o Classes for primary and secondary will resume on 4th of May. All learning will resume on the 4th of May 2020 with new protocols to protect students against COVID-19.

o Domestic air travel is one of the new order that will be relaxed;

o International travel in the interim will be allowed for PNG citizens and permanent residents to return home;

o All public transportation will resume under strict COVID-19 health protocols or regulations;

o For the NCD taxis as of tomorrow will not operate at night where the curfew is still in force;

o For ships and ports to allow for cargoes to continue I have issued directives as well.

  • Of concern to myself and for members of the public are complaints about the repercussions of the SOE, the lock down and the curfew currently in place in various provinces. I believe the Prime Minister has rescue package for PNG which he will announced himself over the course of the week.
  • For security and law and order, concerns have been raised about the alleged conduct of members of the security forces, especially members of the police force.
  • I call upon every member of the police force to serve your people with honesty, integrity and dedication. Common courtesy must be applied to the members of the public.
  • The Prime Minister’s message to all members of the police force is that a kind voice in this harsh time can go a long way towards easing the discomfort and difficult circumstance many of our people are in.
  • Should this advice fall on deaf ears I am holding every commander at the station and provincial level responsible for the conduct of their members. Members of the public are advised to report any abusive conduct by members of the police force on the Police Internal Affairs hot line telephone number 3202634.
  • I assure you that your complaints will be immediately investigated and action taken.
  • So in conclusion, let me reassure the people of PNG that we are committed in the fight against COVID-19. We are doing our level best to ensure that you are not further inconvenienced.
  • Over the coming days we will continue to inform you of or efforts to ensure that life can get back to the new normal with COVID-19.
  • Thank you and may God bless and keep you all safe.

 

Approved for release

David Manning, MBE, DPS, QPM

Commissioner of Police &

Controller of the State of Emergency

 

For  media contact: Chief Superintendent Dominic D. Kakas, BEM, DPS

Team Leader – COVID-19 Media & Public Information ,Joint Agency Task Force 75430557Email: ddkakas@gmail.com

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