A SEVEN-member parliamentary committee on emergency will recommend to Parliament during its June 2 sitting whether the Covid-19 state of emergency should be extended.
Committee chairman Robert Naguri, the Bogia MP, said they would not only oversee the state of emergency activities and spending but also provide an advisory role to Controller David Manning.
Committee members are interviewing stakeholders to collate information on the state of emergency and related activities for its report to Parliament.
Naguri said the current emergency emanated from a global pandemic and was a new experience for the country.
The committee is providing regular reports to Manning and the Government on how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and how to combat the pandemic.
The committee has been interviewing officials from the health department, provincial health authorities, doctors’ and nurses’ associations on their preparedness and response status and plans, challenges they may be facing and any advice and recommendation they have.
“We are gathering facts and data (to support) our report, and recommendations to Parliament on whether the state of emergency should continue,” he said.
The committee is made up of Naguri, Southern Highlands Governor (deputy chairman) William Powi, Kundiawa-Gembogl MP William Onglo, Namatanai MP Walter Schnaubelt, North Bougainville MP William Nakin, Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin and East New Britain Governor Nakikus Konga.
Taxis back in service, but buses still banned
TAXIS are back in service but buses will have to wait a little longer before being allowed back on the road, says State of Emergency Controller David Manning.
Both services were suspended last Friday when a 9pm-6am curfew was imposed as part of the Covid-19 state of emergency requirements.
Manning said taxis must carry a maximum of three passengers and must not operate during the curfew hours.
“Instead of allowing ourselves to be restricted by the pandemic, I have decided to relax some of the restrictions imposed earlier,” he said.
He also said new protocols must be observed when tertiary institutions resume next Monday April 27 and schools on May 4.
“(The) protocols (are) to protect students against Covid-19,” he said.
Domestic air travel will resume while international flights will be allowed only for PNG citizens and permanent residents to return home.
He was also aware of public complaints about the effects of state of emergency restrictions and the curfew on the lives of the people.
“I believe the Prime Minister (James Marape) has a rescue package for PNG which he will announced this week,” Manning said.
He was also concerned about public complaints against the misbehaviour by some police officers.
“I call upon every member of the police force to serve the people with honesty, integrity and dedication,” he said.
“Common courtesy must be applied to the members of the public.”
He repeated Marape’s advice to police officers “that a kind voice in this harsh time can go a long way towards easing the discomfort and difficult circumstance many of our people are in”.
“Should this advice fall on deaf ears, I am holding every station and provincial commander responsible for the conduct of their members,” he said.
“Members of the public are advised to report any abusive conduct (by police officers) on the police internal affairs hot line 3202634. I assure you that your complaints will be immediately investigated and action taken.”
Journalists released from quarantine after testing negative for coronavirus
JOURNALISTS in quarantine for six days after coming into contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case last week are relieved to go home after being tested negative.
The National reporter Rebecca Kuku said: “I feel liberated (and) about time too. We had to wait for close to six days for our results when the turnaround time should be just three hours.
“We have so many issues to cover and so many follow-ups. It was just so frustrating to sit in here (hotel in Port Moresby where they were quarantined) for days.
“But now that the results have come, I feel relieved.
“I miss my kids and I’m just so thankful to be able to go out there again.”
She said the six days “felt like a decade”.
The journalists, around 50 of them, had been covering the daily media briefings at the national operations centre.
They were told to undertake sample testing after a woman at the National Agriculture and Quarantine Inspection Authority desk in the NOCC was tested positive last Thursday.
State of Emergency Controller and Police Commissioner David Manning said the Joint Agency Task Force had to provide the journalists hotel rooms for quarantine purposes as part of their “obligation and duty of care to those who have been in constant contact with us here in their various official capacities”.
“(The) Coral Seas hotel chain has proposed a tax credit scheme for accommodation provided for such a situation,” he said.
“It is as and when we need it.”
O’Neill: Use funds for right purpose
PEOPLE’S National Congress Party leader Peter O’Neill has warned of the serious risk to people with existing health conditions as funds are diverted to state of emergency operations.
O’Neill, the Ialibu-Pangia MP and former prime minister, said limited resources had already been allocated to health programmes such as HIV/Aids, Tubercuclosis, malaria and support for people with disabilities.
“The danger imposed by the potential of the Covid-19 spread is much more serious for people with existing conditions,” O’Neill said.
“(They) are even more vulnerable to falling seriously ill if they contract the coronavirus. Those who have low immunity, people who are already frail, have existing damage to their lungs or are weakened by other conditions, need our support so they have a better chance of survival.”
He said funding for the National Aids Council Secretariat, for ongoing drug-resistant TB emergency operations and the building of TB clinics in rural areas, and the Institute of Medical Research must receive their full allocations.
“Tens of millions of Kina have been allocated in the 2020 national budget, as well as from partner countries, and international organisation support for specific purposes.
“There is no excuse for money that has been approved for the care of people and for medications being diverted to fund state of emergency (operations).”
He urged healthcare providers, as well as partner organisations, churches and other stakeholders to be vigilant in ensuring funds “are properly administered.”
“Every Kina that is allocated to the Covid-19 response must be used for health purposes only.”
Namah wants House recalle to address family hardship
By GYNNIE KERO
OPPOSITION Leader Belden Namah has called for the recall of Parliament to address issues facing those struggling to survive due to the loss of jobs and the state of emergency restrictions.
Namah urged the Government to make emergency provisions for individuals, families and communities lacking basic needs.
Prime Minister James Marape recently said the Government would work with the two superfunds to ensure those who were laid off should have financial assistance flowing for some time.
But Namah yesterday said laws relating to the superfunds had to be amended in Parliament before members could access their savings.
The members can then be allowed a one-off payment of 20 per cent of their savings or a maximum of K10,000, whichever is the lower.
“This (struggle) is starting in the cities and towns where there is only one breadwinner for households comprising many individuals and/or where the income has only been sufficient for the needs of the family until the next pay day,” he said.
“With many individuals laid off work permanently or temporarily, these families now have no (source) of income to sustain their daily needs.
“Whatever they had (prepared) for the lockdown is now depleted or nearly depleted.”
He said the lockdown was going into its fifth week.
“That is a long time. The fact that most parts of the country seem calm and peaceful at present must not (place) the government in a false sense of security.
“Our people may be in more danger of starvation caused by the lockdown than from the coronavirus.”
Namah said Parliament must approve a supplementary budget containing a generous stimulus package and to pass relevant amendments to the superannuation funds acts.
He further called on the Government to open up the entire economy and declare business as usual.
Marape said on Monday the Government wanted to restore normalcy at the earliest.