Posted By Staff Reporter
Our country and the global community are currently confronted with the serious risk of a pandemic with the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus.
What we need from the Government today is the careful and considered management of this threat through sensible and real action that will protect our people.
This includes border protection measures that are being properly implemented, the monitoring of all potentially at-risk travellers after their arrival, and co-operation with our partner countries to share information and resources and to assist our citizens in China.
Almost every country in the world has put in place screening measures to check for infected travellers at their borders.
But I have been advised by travellers arriving in Port Moresby that there are no checks in place, and if they do sign a declaration stating their travel history, there are not any border officials assigned to collect the forms.
We do not need more government talk and promises, we need action before it is too late.
We need the Health to Department to confirm that isolation facilities are ready in case they are required to treat virus carriers.
There has been talk of a virus isolation unit being prepared, but we need to see the proof and reassure our people that this is not just talk.
We must also be ready today to manage not just a handful of people with infections, but if this does become a pandemic, we must be ready to care for many, many more patients if the need arises.
The government must also recognise that this is a different virus to many previous viruses due to the incubation period, during which time an infected person is contagious but is not showing any symptoms.
This means that the government must have in place measures for travellers to seek immediate assistance if they start showing symptoms in the days after their arrival.
Another important point that has to be taken into account is that the virus is not race-based, so it is nonsensical to talk about banning Chinese and other Asian travellers and stopping flights from Asian cities.
Any traveller, regardless of their race, could have contracted the virus if they visited affected areas in China, or if they had come into contact with someone with the virus.
Two cases have already been confirmed in people who have not travelled to China, one in Japan and the other in Germany.
Placing an indefinite ban on Asian flights will not stop the virus but will just harm the economy by stopping business travel and tourism at a time when the economy is struggling because of a lack of business confidence.
At this point in time no other country in the world is placing an indefinite ban on international flights, so while this option should not be discounted entirely, now is not the time. There is no point implementing knee-jerk response ideas that will not be effective in protecting our people, but will hurt our people as the country isolates itself.
This is why our government must consult closely with our partner countries to learn from each other in order to adopt sensible protection measures.
Further to this, it would be prudent for our government to consult with Australia on the possibility of any Papua New Guinean citizens currently in Wuhan to be evacuated along with their own citizens if this is to take place. We have a relatively small number of our citizens in Wuhan and I anticipate that our closest neighbour would be open to providing support if resources are available.
To date there is a lot of frustration from our people who are in China over a of lack of information and support from our country.
Make no mistake, this virus is serious and the potential loss of life is massive, and because of this we must have comprehensive and properly considered national Government action.
Hon. Peter O’Neill, CMG, MP
Member for Ialibu-Pangia
Leader of the People’s National Congress Part
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