PNG stands ready to address COVID-19
The Government of Papua New Guinea has established a COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Ministerial Committee to oversee the emergency preparedness of the outbreak with the release of K10 Million from an allocation of K45.33 Million to take care of any confirmed cases that are procured and in place.
Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Davis Steven said the government has established an inter-sectoral coordination Task Force, comprising all government agencies and development partners of Government, chaired by the National Department of Health, which is the lead Government agency in this outbreak.
This Taskforce coordinates the operational aspects of the emergency preparedness and response activities by all agencies and reports to the Ministerial Committee through the Minister for Health and HIV-AIDS Hon. Jelta Wong, who is the Chairman of the Committee.
Other members of the Committee include, Minister for Information and Communication Technology, Timothy Masiu, Minister for State Enterprises, Sasindran Muthuvel, Minister for Civil Aviation, Lekwa Gure, and Minister for Immigration and Border Security, Westly Nukundj.
The Government has reactivated the National Emergency Operations Centre at the National Department of Health that had been established during the earthquake disaster and polio outbreak in 2018 to begin the emergency preparedness and response planning and also at Provincial level through Emergency Operational Centres.
“So far border control and quarantine, surveillance and rapid response team, emergency ambulance, and isolation ward are in place. The quarantine facility will be operational in two to three weeks from now.
“There has been screening of travellers from countries affected by the COVID-19, which is the official World Health Organization name for the coronavirus causing this outbreak since 27 January 2020..”
The outbreak that started in Wuhan City in Hubei Province China has reached 37 other countries in the world outside China and reportedly 82,294 confirmed cases of the COVI-19 reported globally.
It is reassuring to inform the country that at this point in time, no Pacific Island country has reported any confirmed cases of COVID-19, although Australia and New Zealand have reported confirmed cases.
“We all know that Australia and New Zealand are developed nations that have the capacity to respond to such outbreaks unlike the smaller Pacific Island nations including Papua New Guinea’’, said Hon Davis.
According to Mr Steven, the Government is working to ensure the virus does not enter our shore and if it does enter our shores, we are prepared to take care of those who become infected, and prevent it from spreading.
So far, more than 287 flights, and more 17,500 inbound travellers have been screened.
Out of the 17,500 travellers screened, seven were classified as persons of interest (POI) and samples collected from them were tested at the Institute of Medical Research in Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province.
All tests were negative for COVID-19.
The emergency preparedness and response has gained support from partners of Government including the World Health Organization, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders, Governments of Australia and New Zealand and others and I want to thank them all today.
Mr Steven thanked the World Health Organization for providing technical support as well as personal protection equipment from the very beginning and the Government and people of Australia for donating personal protection equipment for the protection of our health and border protection officials in their line of duty.
Besides the technical and logistic support, the Governments of New Zealand and Australia evacuated 18 students from China and quarantined them in their respective countries for the required 14 days before sending them home to Papua New Guinea.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is working closely with the Government of China through our Embassy in Beijing to ensure that students who are still in China are well looked after.
The Government is planning to bring them home but please bear with us as we put in place a plan to do this with the help of the Government of China.
“And we would like to urge our good citizens to play your part as well.”
“First is to seek accurate information from authorities such as the National Department of Health and the World Health Organization.
“Secondly, practice hand hygiene (wash your hands regularly with soap and water), respiratory hygiene (cover your cough), and food safety (cook food well before eating) as a prevention measure for yourself as well as your family members and your community.
“Thirdly, the disease is transmitted through close contact as well, so stay away from mass gatherings,” Mr Steven said.
Schools and church closures have been implemented in countries already experiencing outbreak of this disease as an effective countermeasure that requires strong community support.
“It may well come down to a decision each one of us makes to observe these simple hygiene measures and staying away from mass gatherings that determines whether we become infected by the coronavirus or not.”
The Ministerial Committee and the Taskforce will begin to increase mass communication in all forms of media to educate every one of us what to do to stay safe from this disease.