By Marysilla Kellerton in Port Moresby
Demonstrators gathered in Port Moresby yesterday for a march to Parliament in protest over the covid-19 vaccines, which they claimed wrongly to be mandatory, a day after Papua New Guinean police warned such gatherings were illegal.
The protest was a result of a post circulating on social media about a “peaceful protest march” planned for the day against mandatory vaccination.
Despite assurances from Controller of the Pandemic Response and Police Commissioner David Manning that the notice circulated was false and misleading because vaccination was not mandatory and still remained a personal choice, the protesters gathered for the rally.
The anti-vaccine crowd disobeyed advice from the police to disperse. Instead, they took to the Gordon bus stop, gained momentum from others who joined them and attempted to march through a residential street towards the Wardstrip Primary School and on to Parliament.
However, police thwarted their their attempts by blocked the route and spoke to the crowd who disregarded social distancing and masks.
The NCD/Central Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Anthony Wagambie Jnr, addressed the crowd. He said their concerns had already been heard.
It was not clear who the organisers of the march were.
Endangering public safety
ACP Wagambie explained that the march had to be stopped by police to prevent disorder stemmed that would endanger the safety of others in Port Moresby.
The anti-vaxxers carried a banner with messages condemning “666” and “artificial intelligence”.
Misinformation about the covid-19 vaccines is currently swamping genuine information available to Papua New Guineans and is allowing fear and confusion to gain momentum.
Asia Pacific Report reports only 1.2 percent of the nine million Papua New Guineans are vaccinated against covid-19.
According to the John Hopkins University covid dashboard, 29,715 cases of covid and 370 deaths have been reported on Papua New Guinea but health officials fear the real toll is far higher because of limited testing and records.
John Hopkins has reported that the total death toll from covid-19 has now passed five million globally.
Marysilla Kellerton is a Loop PNG reporter.