Commissioner of Police and Controller of the PNG COVID-19 National Pandemic Response, David Manning, has urged the people of West New Britain province to maintain the positive momentum achieved to contain the spread of COVID-19 during the 14-day lockdown of the province.
He said whilst most people in West New Britain did not want the two-week lockdown imposed as a result of a surge in COVID-19 cases during the months of December 2020 and January this year, it did the province good.
Although the 14-day lockdown was lifted in early February Mr Manning said the fight was far from over and encouraged people in West New Britain to maintain the momentum.
“We are pleased to note that WNB has not had many new cases as it had a month or two ago.
“It had an absence of more than two weeks before it reported new cases again and we want to encourage them to maintain the momentum achieved during the lockdown.
“Like many provinces, WNB was in a lull when the infection rate reached large-scale community transmission, leaving us with no choice but to declare a lockdown, which I am sure the people did not like.
“ I urge every citizen and resident in the province to adhere to the health protocols in place such as washing of hands, wearing masks in public places and practicing physical distancing to prevent the further spread of the disease.
“ There are now provinces reporting outbreaks with cases that have originated from WNB such as in Madang.
“This is a lesson for all provinces throughout PNG to stop sleeping and step up because COVID-19 is spreading fast while people are relaxing and taking it as a joke.’’
Meanwhile, the Incident Manager for the West New Britain Provincial Coordinating Centre Dr William Toua and three of his officers, visited the National Control Centre, on February 19, where they presented a report to the NCC health operations meeting, on how the province had fared during the outbreak and lockdown.Dr Toua said despite facing many challenges, the multi-stakeholder response had been delivered. “I think the lockdown really helped. It made people respond but we still need to do more,’’ said Dr Toua. West New Britain has to date, 196 positive cases which is the third highest number of positive cases in the country behind National Capital District and Western Province. Dr Toua however said they had not reported new cases for more than two weeks. WNB is also one of the few provinces in the country that is consistently sending samples for testing at the laboratories. The surge operation plan for the lockdown was implemented as a multi-sectoral response which involved business houses. Dr Toua said, “It may not be perfect, but we felt that we had to do something.” He thanked everyone that contributed including business houses who allowed the PCC to operate on credit basis. He said the enforcement of ‘No mask No Entry’ policy and checkpoint operations by police were resisted by people at first but they began to comply after they saw its benefit.
However, he added there are still some people refusing to adhere to the ‘No mask and No entry’ policy which is a challenge to the response team.
The three PCC members that attended the NCC meeting with Dr Toua were , Mr Robert Dau, Deputy Provincial Administrator; Mr Leo Porikwa, Acting Director Disaster and Emergency Response and Mr Allan Tinim, Planning officer, Provincial Emergency Operation Centre Secretariat.
Dr Toua said he was new in the job during the lockdown and thanked the NCC for guiding WNB in its response by sending health experts to assist.
The comprehensive report presented by Dr Toua and team included a map showing the area most affected which is Talasea District.
A plan is also in place to move into Kandrian-Gloucester, the least developed area, and ramp up testing to ascertain the severity of COVID-19 in the province, with a funding of K450,000 being secured for this operation.
Dr Toua said the province’s current challenges include the set-up of an isolation and quarantine facility which is currently under construction.
The National Incident Manager for the PNG COVID-19 National Pandemic Response, Dr Daoni Esorom, thanked Dr Toua and his team for a job well-done in trying to reduce the infection rate of COVID-19 in WNB.
He also encouraged them to work hard to improve, especially in the areas of awareness in the community; isolation of cases, testing and tracing of contacts.
He also challenged them to use the opportunity in COVID-19 to improve the health system which Dr Toua and team agreed, saying they were now working also on improving Infection Prevention Control and Intensive Care Unit or critical patient care services within the West New Britain Province.