Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Ol mama, papa, brata, susa na pikinini lo wanem hap yu sindaun na harim dispela toksave.
Welcome to another update of the PNG Government’s COVID-19 response for Tuesday May 12, 2020.
Yesterday was an exciting moment for the PNG Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as we witnessed the arrival of two aircrafts bringing in personal protective equipment (PPEs), test kits and other items vital to our COVID-19 response. This included the generous assistance from the Australian Government and from the Chinese Government.
I will provide an update of the security measures undertaken to assist the Health Department deliver the PNG Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Acting Health Secretary and Deputy Controller of the State of Emergency Dr Paison Dakulala will provide you with an update on our health responses to date.
Besides the unfortunate killing of a senior police officer within the NCD Command which almost created a confrontation between the PNG Defence Force and the Police Force, the situation across the country is generally quiet.
We have resolved the issue. Three members of the PNGDF who were off-duty and allegedly drunk have since been arrested. Police investigations are ongoing. That being said, both the hierarchy of the PNGDF and the Police regret the unfortunate and regrettable incident of Saturday. It was an isolated case and is being treated as a law and order issue.
Joint security operations
Both the PNGDF and the Constabulary have always enjoyed a formidable and cordial relation and have worked together on many disasters, emergencies, special police operations including national elections and will continue to work together. Our cooperation has continued well into the COVID-19 State of Emergency operations, with PNGDF and the Constabulary being a fundamental part of the Joint Agency Task Force and providing the assistance to the Health response team.
We perceived the northern and southern border areas between PNG and Indonesia as our single biggest threat, given the increasing number of COVID-19 cases across the border. Papua New Guineans along the border provinces and even those from the highlands provinces have been traveling across the border into Merauke on the north and Jayapura in the south to buy cheap Indonesian products or to sell vanilla and other items.
We have taken steps to mitigate the risk. Whilst the Health response teams are doing tests we are also conducting awareness in the hope of stopping Papua New Guineans to go across the border. We currently have land and sea elements of both the PNGDF and police patrolling these areas along the border. The COVID-19 pandemic is a new and evolving threat to PNG and the world. There is no cure for COVID-19 but it is a disease we can recover from, as is evident from the first eight Papua New Guineans who contracted the disease.
But until we know for certain what COVID-19 is, and as long as the SOE remains I will continue to make orders and directions aimed at mitigating the risk of the spread of this pandemic. Restrictions will be put in place from time to time and until Papua New Guineans change their attitudes, such restrictions will remain in force as necessary to help the Government response against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The State of Emergency ends on June 2. The National Parliament is expected to meet a week prior to discuss whether to extend or not to. At the moment there is no local evidence to assist the Government to determine the way forward. Thanks to the WHO ,we have received over 10,000 GeneXpert cartridges which will assist us do more tests and assess where we are in terms of COVID-19 so that we can make the right decision. We will begin in Port Moresby and will also focus on areas where the positive COVID-19 cases were identified including our border provinces.
The tests will enable the authorities to make evidence based decisions going forward. Even then I would expect that the “new normal” protocols developed now will continue even beyond the life of the SOE.
Return of PNG citizens/residents
I have issued a number of orders and directions on the repatriation of PNG citizens abroad. We are committed to bringing home our people who have been stranded abroad and have been doing everything humanly possible to achieve that. I issued orders yesterday to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade as well as Air Niugini regarding the return of any PNG citizen or permanent resident who is being funded to return to PNG by the Government of PNG.
For these persons returning to PNG, the necessary accommodation arrangements for their 14 day quarantine will be organised by the DFAIT. DFAIT are to coordinate effectively with the Immigration and Citizenship Authority and adhere to paragraph 5 of the Emergency Direction-Arrivals Process regarding hotel quarantine. The orders are also specific to Air Niugini in that the national airline is expected to assist PNG citizens or residents returning to PNG who have been authorised by the Controller, regardless of whether they have a hotel booking or not.
World Free Press Day
May 3 was World Press Freedom day. In conjunction with the United Nations the JATF arranged a forum for the development partners, the media and the JATF to attend. The theme of the program was “Collaborations – Reshaping News Coverage in Papua New Guinea”.
My statement which was delivered to the attendees of the workshop is that business is not as usual now under COVID-19. Organizations, companies, individuals and Governments are trialling new ways to conduct business and to remain relevant.
In these trying times there is a need for accurate and assuring information to the public. Governments need to be open and transparent, responsive and accountable to the people and a free, open and vibrant media can greatly help our cause.
Information is the key in the fight against COVID-19. Whilst the pandemic is new and evolving, I am ensuring that all the necessary and relevant information is being made available to our people so that they can make an informed decision to protect themselves against the disease.
I initiated the COVID-19 Question and Answer program which comes on NBC TV, TV WAN and EMTV as well as the provincial NBC radio stations, FM 100, Radio Light and Lalokau FM.
The program brings in experts in the various fields to provide answers to pertinent questions regarding COVID-19 and the whole of government response to the pandemic. We have thus far run eight episodes. I urge all Papua New Guineans to watch or listen to the program which comes out every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
I have thus far issued 34 National Emergency Orders as well as various directions under the SOE. These orders are provided by law, and are based upon international best practice to enable the PNG Government to mitigate the spread of the virus.
As it is the public for whom the SOE and these orders have been made we have our ears close to the ground and are always guided by the feedback of the community. We have eased restrictions, amended emergency orders and issued new orders based upon the wishes of the PNG public but always with their health and safety in mind.
COVID-19 is a real threat and we must continue to take precautions and protect ourselves as the world still knows very little about it. PNG is also not in any position should we experience an outbreak so we are doing our utmost best to ensure that it does not spread in PNG with the same impact as it has in other countries.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Media contact: Chief Superintendent Dominic D. Kakas, BEM, DPS
Team Leader – COVID-19 Media & Public Information Joint Agency Task Force
Mobile: 75430557: Email: email@example.com