Update on PNG Government’s Response to COVID-19 – May 14

Thursday 14 May 2020

Welcome to the update of the PNG Government’s COVID-19 response for Thursday, 14 May 2020.

Situation Update

The situation across the country is generally quiet under the COVID-19 State of Emergency. The SOE ends on June 2. The National Parliament is expected to meet a week prior to discuss whether to extend or not to. In order to do that Parliament needs scientific evidence.

COVID-19 is a new disease. We do not have a clear understanding of how it behaves. Whilst we do know that it is in PNG, we have no idea of how it came here. Eight people have been infected and whilst only two required hospitalisations, all have fully recovered.

We do not know how many people may have been infected or how many have recovered from it. To enable us to make an informed decision the World Health Organisation donated 10,000 GeneXpert cartridges which will assist us to assess to what extent COVID-19 is in PNG. We intend to do 2,000 samples per province with confirmed COVID-19 cases.

We started the test in Port Moresby and will also focus in areas where the positive COVID-19 cases were identified such as the Eastern Highlands, East New Britain and also in the border provinces.

Sampling was conducted along the PNG/Indonesian border from OK Tedi, Tabubil down to Ningerum, Kiunga to Boset this week. Poor weather has made sample collection difficult, however to date 902 samples of the expected 2,000 have been collected.

Return of PNG citizens

A chartered flight from Manilla, Philippines to Port Moresby tonight will allow for the repatriation of 69 students, missionaries and other PNG citizens back to PNG. The group will be placed into quarantine for 14 days at an approved quarantine facility.

Due to the fact that they are returning from a high risk COVID-19 country I have issued instructions for quarantine procedures to be strictly observed.

Hotels approved as designated quarantine facilities are urged to strictly follow all quarantine procedures which includes:

  • Maintaining accurate registry or record of arrivals;
  • Provision of face masks and gloves to guests during transport to the hotel with the driver not to have any physical contact with their luggage, to wear masks and completely disinfect vehicles after every use;
  • Hotel security is to be placed 24/7 on each floor occupied by quarantine guests;
  • No other guests will be occupying rooms on floors where the quarantine persons are, and
  • All persons are not to leave their rooms until the midnight on the 14th day of arrival in PNG, and then only after they have been cleared by the National Department of Health medical team.

These are some of the key instructions I have issued to ensure that whilst we bring back our citizens, we do not bring back COVID-19 as well.

Full details of my instructions were sent out early today to all hoteliers and quarantine facilities.

Police conduct

The Internal Affairs Directorate of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary continued to receive numerous reports against Police through the Toll-Free number with approximately 75 per cent of complaint received being against NCD police for various alleged criminal and abusive behaviours. A Joint Investigations Task Force Team has been set up to investigate several major allegations in the NCD.

The biggest challenge for us remains with funding to sustain the operations of both security and health personnel around the country. I am confident that with the recent allocation of funding we can sustain our operations going forward.

A report was received of three banana boats loaded with people and cargo from Jayapura crossing into Warapu Village in Aitape (WSP) on the 12th of May. The boats then departed Warapu for Jayapura after unloading their cargoes.

Whilst we have been advising our people not to cross the border because of the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, our people continue to cross back and forth for various trade including vanilla trade which has increased in demand to about K2,000.00 per kilogram. We are boosting our awareness campaigns within the border areas in light of the increased border crossings.

The Vanimo quarantine facility is open and ready for 16 PNG prisoners coming from Indonesia. That again will occur when funds permit.

I issued National Emergency Order number 35 amending National Emergency Order number 25, basically allowing the resumption of flights nationwide without the need for my express written approval. However, certain restrictions and health protocols are to be strictly maintained. Flights to resource sector sites still require my written authorisation.

Whilst we slowly continue to relax SOE restrictions I am forced to again remind the people of PNG to continue to follow all health and hygiene protocols, because COVID-19 is here.

The statistics are alarming. We commenced the State of Emergency on the 24th of March. Globally on that day there were 372,755 confirmed cases and 16,231 deaths. Today, after 52 days, there are 4,425,131 confirmed cases and 297,247 deaths. This is an increase of over 4 million confirmed cases and 281,503 deaths in just 52 days.

The low infection rate and no deaths in PNG may give us a false sense of security. We are not out of the danger zone yet so I urge all of you to be vigilant. Wash your hands, cough into your elbow, do not touch your face or mouth, maintain social distance and stay home if you do not need to leave you house.

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: ddkakas@gmail.com

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