Authorities announced on Thursday, April 9, stricter border controls and restrictions to be introduced immediately amid the extended nationwide state of emergency, amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
According to international media sources, all individuals entering Papua New Guinea (PNG), including nationals and permanent residents, must have official authorization from the Emergency Controller, Police Commissioner, in order to enter the country.
The new measures also state that all authorized travelers and individuals arriving in-country will have to quarantine in the capital Port Moresby; PNG nationals and permanent residents, including returning students, will be required to quarantine at a designated facility at the government's expense. Foreign travelers and citizens arriving by air will be required to quarantine at a designated hotel at their own cost.
Furthermore, border crossing, both overland and by sea, has been temporarily suspended between PNG and Indonesia, Australia, the Federal State of Micronesia and the Solomon Islands. Both military and naval personnel have been deployed to various locations to enforce these measures, including Wutung, Bewani/Schotiao and Green River in Sanduan province, and the seas in Western province.
Reports indicate that the restrictions on inter-province travel within the country, which were enforced in the initial state of emergency introduced on March 24, have eased slightly amid the new measures imposed. Domestic flight operations in several provinces are resuming, though all passengers need to complete an Air Passenger Travel Approval form and must continue to display social distancing and follow the recommended hygiene guidelines.
However, travel from or to Western Province and Sandaun province remains prohibited, except for those exempt or in possession of an official travel pass or authorized by the Police Commissioner. Inter-province travel is also still prohibited to and from provinces with confirmed cases of COVID-19, including East New Britain. A ban on international flights remains in place. Schools are closed and all non-essential workers are being asked to stay home.
As on Thursday, April 9, there have been two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea. Further international spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized the virus as a "pandemic."
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.