Presenter: Hon. Bryan Kramer – Minister for Police
Date: 24th March 2020 Time: 3:45am
COVID-19 COUNTRY STATUS
As of today, Papua New Guinea remains free of additional COVID-19 cases. The only case we had has left the country through medivac. Test that have come back from highly suspected cases the Prime Minister mentioned previously and those test have come back negative. Tests are still being carried out as we speak and will continue.
I have also been briefed that in the last 12 hours, the call center has received some 700 calls that are being registered and monitored.
Today, a flight was sent to Lae, a charter. The Member for Wau/Bulolo as well as some health officials, traveled up to the Hidden valley mine to carry out swabbing and continue the process of contact tracing of all the individuals that came in contact with the confirmed case of COVID-19. Those swabs will be taken and sent to Goroka in the next 24 hours and those tests will be carried out.
The focus of the National Operating Center (NOC19) is to continue to build our capacity to lay down or command structures in being able to address this issue in the long term.
COVID-19 is not going away in two weeks or 14 days. It will be here, the experts have suggested that it will have a global impact for the next 3 to 6 to possibly 12 months, until scientists or medical professionals are able to develop a vaccine.
We have short term strategies and we have long term strategies on how we manage this crisis. So long term, the focus will be we need to change or habits, even in meetings now, we are required to practice social distancing. Every meetings that we are having here with Ministerial Committee meeting or meetings with SoE’s again, first thing is ensure social distancing.
So getting on and off the lift, getting on a bus, we have to now start that process. Everyone has to practice hygiene. Even entering this building, you are encouraged to sanitize your hand before entering the building.
STATE OWNED ENTERPRISES
I also meet today with all the Managing Directors of the State Owned Enterprises. That is Air Niugini, Water Board, PNG Power, Telikom and BMobile. They were requested to put in place all their Business Continuity Plans (BCP), bring to our attention issues that they see they could face during these period of 14 days and PNG Power highlighted some areas where landowners may cause disruptions to power supply. So the aim for this Command Centre is to put in strategic response plans to avoid that from happening.
Air Niugini will run a schedule everyday to move cargo, there is provisions for 20 seats in those aircraft. Again, that is only for essential travel on health, security forces or Government Administrative or even Members of Parliament or Governors that need to move back and forth to do their part in addressing COVID-19 in their respective Districts and Provinces.
Flights that continue to Singapore are only for cargo. Flights will continue to Brisbane and Cairns, I am told there is four flights in a week. Because we have expatriates in country that we will need to ensure that they can get back home.
All inbound passengers will not be uplifted. I understand that today you have been made aware that a Qantas Flight that had Papua New Guinean Passengers was turned away mid-air and sent back to Brisbane. The Government had made a clear position that during this 14 days we will not accept incoming passengers, PNG citizens or otherwise. This is until we are prepared to manage this crisis. Once we are very certain that COVID-19 is back to green, then we will not relax, but step up our screening when we allow or own citizens back in country.
I ask Papua New Guinean citizens and their families for their consideration, until we can make a clear assessment on the situation within PNG.
LEGALITY OF STATE OF EMERGENCY
Section 228 and 229 of the Constitution gives the National Executive Council (NEC) the power to declare a State of Emergency. The Emergency Act also gives NEC the power to declare an SoE.
Section 230, Division 3 of Part X of the Constitution states that;
“Before or during the period of a declared emergency, Parliament may make Acts…
So the National Constitution does provide for when a State of Emergency is declared and as soon as practical, in no less than 15 days, Parliament must convene.
This is just a 14 days State of Emergency. After 14 Days, the Prime Minister and NEC will decide whether or not to extend, depending on the circumstances. If it is not extended, then there is no urgency to recall Parliament to vote for an Act of Parliament.
However, it is the practice in the past, when you declare a State of Emergency, a Bill or Emergency Act, that is specific to that emergency that can be defined in a certain part of the country. We are already anticipating that and a draft Bill has already being prepared and it is sitting on standby. After 14 days, if it is necessary, Parliament will be reconvened and that Act of Parliament will go on the Floor and it will then be passed. Then we will continue the State of Emergency with clear precise laws and impact of the State of Emergency.