Wednesday 10 June 2020
The proposed Public Health Emergency Act is ready to be tabled in this session of Parliament, and when passed will only operate when there is a public health crisis declared formally by the Governor- General.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Justice and Attorney General Davis Steven announced this to give confidence to the general public, business houses and other stakeholders that the government’s position remains that the current State of Emergency will not be extended after it lapses in about a week’s time.
“We are in final consultations with stakeholders. Our Government is conscious of the negative impact of COVID-19 in society and especially in the business and economic sector and is also very conscious of the threat the virus has on the health and well-being of our people.
“The law capitulates all concerns hence it is designed in a way where we manage the pandemic at the same high alert levels whilst we also manage our economy and business and the livelihood of our people,” Mr Steven said.
He said the proposed bill provides a legislative framework for a national response to a pandemic declared by the World Health Organization (WHO), an outbreak or a serious public health threat and is intended to have a binding effect on the State and will include the Autonomous Region of Bougainville until such time the ABG can be excluded from coming under this law.
“The Bill seeks to provide a practical and effective legislative mechanism for the implementation of all necessary measures to detect, prevent the entry of, control the spread of and eradicate a pandemic, outbreak or serious public health threat.
“ Having lessons learnt from the current COVID-19 pandemic, this is critical for the country,” Mr Stevens said.
The Deputy Prime Minister said that under the proposed law a National Control Centre (NCC) will be the national body established to be the primary coordination and implementation body to be headed by a Controller and intends to have a structure similar to the current Joint Agency Task Force National Operations Centre (NOC) and will be an adhoc body that is called into operation when a public health emergency is declared.
The Bill will also establish Provincial Control Centres to be headed by the Provincial Administrators.
The national centre and provincial centres will be supported by necessary government and private sector bodies and relevant international agencies.
“All orders and directions including procurement of services and other arrangements done under the current SOE will continue when the new law comes into effect.
“I reiterate the government’s position that the SOE will not be extended and urge persons, social media users and the media not to mislead the public as the proposed bill is the strategy by the government to continue to manage the COVID-19 pandemic away from the SOE measure,” Mr Steven said.
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