PNG in bid to stem rising covid-19 cases by tightening air travel rules

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Air Niugini ... Papua New Guinea depends on its vital air connections because some of the country's biggest city and towns are not connected by road. Image: Air Niugini

By Rebecca Kuku in Port Moresby

As the delta variant of covid-19 spreads to more than 96 countries, Papua New Guinea has put in tighter measures that include all incoming passengers and crew to be vaccinated before boarding any international flight entering the country.

Police Commissioner David Manning, who is also Controller of the PNG COVID-19 National Pandemic Response, released the new control measures yesterday.

Under the updated measures, all incoming passengers and crew should be vaccinated before boarding an international flight coming into PNG.

And the mandatory quarantine period has been extended to 21 days for all incoming travellers, with covid-19 tests to be undertaken on the first, seventh and final day of quarantine.

Scheduled flights can continue as normal, while unscheduled flights require approval from the Controller.

Manning said the new measures were aimed at preventing the spread of the covid-19 delta mutation.

PNG is struggling with widespread community transmission of the virus, with more than 17,000 confirmed cases and rising.

‘Serious threat’
“The delta strain of covid-19 poses a serious threat to our country, and we will do everything we can to prevent or delay its arrival and spread,” Manning said.

Institute of the National Affairs executive director Paul Barker has welcomed the new measures, saying that the restrictions on international flights are really wise — but they also needs to apply to the West Papua border with Indonesia.

“The variant is dominant in India and has become dominant in a short time in Fiji, UK, and South Africa, and is spreading fast in US, and lately has slipped into UK,” he said.

“It’s 60 percent more infectious than the UK variant, which was 60 percent more infectious than the original virus we have here.”

“It’s good to keep it out as long as we can, but it’s already spreading fast in Indonesia, so it will be challenging.”

Overseas destinations
Meanwhile, Air Niugini has also released a statement advising passengers on Air Niugini international flights departing from overseas destinations on or after Friday, July 2, 2021, and entering PNG, must now :

  • Be fully vaccinated against covid-19, and provide evidence in the form of a vaccination certificate at check-in;
  • Quarantine for 21 days on arrival in PNG at the individual’s expense;
  • All previous approvals for home quarantine, or shorter quarantine period, have been revoked by the Controller; and
  • All previous Controller approvals for a person to enter PNG as required under previous Measure 2 remain effective, but are now subject to the new direction.

There are no changes to the requirements for international passengers departing from PNG.

Air Niugini continues to operate six flights a week to Brisbane, one flight to Sydney, four flights per week to Singapore, and twice weekly flights each to Manila and Hong Kong.

Rebecca Kuku is a senior journalist with the PNG Post-Courier. This article is republished with permission.

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