Coronavirus: We need to shut down PNG borders and prepare our people

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PNG Parliament
PNG Parliament ... "members of the National Executive Council (NEC) need to show the leadership and ensure there is trust and confidence by maintaining dialogue with the media." Image: Scott Waide

OPINION: By Scott Waide in Port Moresby

There is no other way to say this to the government of Papua New Guinea.

Prime Minister James Marape, you need to issue the orders to shut down our borders starting with our international airports.

While every other country is initiating lockdowns over the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, Papua New Guinea is still receiving flights from Singapore and the Philippines knowing full well, we cannot adequately screen and track suspected cases.

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There appears to be no sense of urgency.

We need to shut down our borders and prepare our people before there is an outbreak. Our efforts will be uphill if we allow the global crisis to arrive on our doorsteps.

I know for a fact that passenger traffic has dropped significantly. If Air Niugini is operating, how much of a revenue has it made in the last two months? How much of a loss will it be if shut down is ordered? How much of a cost will be for this country if an outbreak happens because we kept our borders open?

Philippine President Roderigo Duterte has locked down Metro Manila due to the coronavirus. Australia has banned public gatherings. A travel ban may soon follow.

US ban on travel from Europe
US President Donald Trump has banned travel from Europe for the next 30 days. Smaller Pacific Islands have issued orders for their own travel bans and New Zealand is expected to announce border controls today.

NZ border control
New Zealand is expected to announce border controls today. Image: NZ Herald screenshot

The amount of investment going into this emergency globally is massive. Fiji has opened a new biomedical lab. Australia has announced a $17 billion stimulus package for its economy.

We are yet to see an outline of a economic strategy to cushion the effects of the corona virus. If not, there has to be some clarity and certainty on what we as a country can and should do.

We understand there has been an “allocation” of K45 million (NZ$22 million) for this operation. None of the provinces have a fully functioning coronavirus isolation center yet. Morobe’s Angau Hospital response team is still waiting for the money to come. They are ready to work.

We appreciate all that is being done so far. Your hard work is highly commended.

However, members of the National Executive Council (NEC) need to show the leadership and ensure there is trust and confidence by maintaining dialogue with the media.

We, the media, don’t desire a standoff around coronavirus related information gathering and sharing. We want to help. But it is absolutely frustrating when we get no answers at all or the answers come with little clarity and direction.

Information needs to be shared and people need to be reassured through its timely release at both at the bureaucratic and the political levels.

Scott Waide is deputy news editor of EMTV News. This article is his personal view and is republished with permission from his blog My Land, My Country.

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