By REBECCA KUKU
OPPOSITION Leader Belden Namah has called on the Government to declare a state of emergency to prevent and contain the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
It includes recalling Parliament immediately to pass a supplementary budget to fund the national response to the pandemic.
“The coronavirus is responsible for the shock to the global economies including PNG. While the rest of the world have announced stimulus and bail-out packages to handle the fallout, we are very doubtful of the ability of Treasurer Ian Ling Stuckey to respond effectively on the PNG economy and on the 2020 national budget,” he said.
“Parliament needs to be recalled immediately and a supplementary budget be passed to stimulate the national economy, and to ensure that we fully implement the measures to protect and contain the virus (when) it reaches our shores.”
It is understood that the Government will announce this week how it will fund its coronavirus response plan.
Namah, the Vanimo-Green MP from West Sepik, is teaming up with his colleagues Aitape-Lumi MP Patrick Pruaitch, Telefomin MP Solan Mirisim, Nuku MP Joe Sungi and Governor Tony Wouwou to fund the surveillance of the border with Indonesia.
They have agreed to allocate K500,000 each from their districts to fund the surveillance while awaiting Government funding. The provincial government had already allocated K100,000.
Provincial deputy administrator Timothy Teklan agreed with Namah that the Government should declare a state of emergency and deploy security force members to the border.
The entry points were closed by the provincial executive council on the instruction of the immigration and health departments.
Stop spitting in public, says Sir Bob
GOVERNOR-General Grand Chief Sir Bob Dadae has urged Papua New Guineans to stop chewing betel nut and spitting in public places to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“Betelnut chewing in public places and spitting can spread the virus much quicker. Therefore it is wise to quit the habit now and encourage others to do so,” he said.
He met Prime Minister James Marape at Government House yesterday.
Sir Bob also advised the people to take care of their personal health and hygiene.
“We must all practise good personal habits. Wash hands regularly with soap and water and maintain regular cleanliness, sanitising at home on a daily basis.
He warned the people to take seriously the advice from the World Health Organisation and Marape.
“We have seen the impact of the coronavirus in other countries,” he said.
“The virus has spread (from China) to countries with increasing numbers of new infections and a rising death toll. While there has been no confirmed cases in PNG thus far, we are not immune to the infection.
“Therefore, I urge all citizens to take extra precaution regarding personal hygiene for your own safety. Avoid handshakes, body contact and large gatherings.
“If you experience symptoms similar to the coronavirus, seek medical assistance immediately. Each and every one of us must do all we can to protect ourselves and our family from this deadly virus.
“By adhering to warnings and implementing measures as directed by health experts, we can prevent the spread of the virus and avoid infection.”
Prisons given guidelines on hygiene
PRISONS around the country have been provided instructions on basic health practices to take on seriously before the coronavirus enters the country.
Correctional Service commissioner Stephen Pokanis said instructions were given to prisoners and warders three weeks ago to look after themselves.
Simple steps have been taken to ensure that officers, families and detainees know how to look after themselves, Pokanis said.
“We will make an official release on the coronavirus emergency response plan by Friday,” Pokanis said.
It will be on what measures and plans they will have for staff members of the department, prisons and the prisoners.
Sir Peter: Schools, hotels may close if virus strikes
MADANG businessman Sir Peter Barter expects schools, churches and sporting events to be affected when the coronavirus is detected in the country.
“Apart from the health hazard which is very real, it would be very hard to control the virus if it becomes established in PNG. Maybe it is already here,” he said.
He said the economic effects would be far-reaching, for example the cancellation of tourist bookings and the low hotel occupancy rate.
“The occupancy rates of hotels in Madang are so low it will result in massive staff retrenchments,” he said. One option is to rotate staff a week.
“If the situation does not improve, I expect most hotels will shut down. It is affecting domestic travel and will become worse if more bans are implemented.”
He said it was “the last thing we want in PNG”.
“We are taking the matter seriously, providing liquid soap, sanitisers, taking extra time to ensure rooms and other precautions advised by WHO and the Health Department are observed.” Staff have been advised at a meeting of what could happen and to discuss it with family and friends.
“We also have notices placed in the front office and we are providing forms to guests to fill in (relevant) information.
“In the meantime, we hope and pray that PNG remains free of the virus.”
Vision City educates people on preventive measures
By MICHELLE AUAMOROMORO
THE Vision City Megamall is the first shopping center in Port Moresby to take precautionary measures against the coronavirus, says housekeeping manager Shirlyn Mick.
The housekeeping team has been working hard in the past two weeks to put in place these since the declaration of the pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
The team has provided hand sanitisers at the information desk near the entrance to the mall, and at the payment counters for staff and shoppers to get their hands sanitised when entering or leaving.
They have also made sure that the handrails of stairs, escalators, elevators and the revolving doors are sanitised once every hour. All restrooms have hand soaps.
The mall yesterday distributed leaflets to the people with information on what to do to protect themselves from the coronavirus. They distributed about 2,000 leaflets.
“These 2000 people will spread the awareness to maybe between 5,000 and 10,000 other people,” Mick said. The distribution of the leaflets will continue.
“Our aim is to give awareness to our customers. We are trying our best to educate them but it is up to them whether take it into consideration or not.
“But I think they are very keen to read this as we can see that everyone is getting the leaflets and reading them.”
Public health emergency may force police to act
POLICE may be forced to close shopping centers, schools and places of worship in the case of a public health emergency.
Police Commissioner David Manning said police would be required to not only maintain public order but also assist health officials in such situations.
He released yesterday a plan to deal with the pandemic when it hits the nation.
He said a public health emergency could result in the closure of public gathering places such as shopping malls, places of worship and sporting events, the sending home of students from schools, a way to quickly distribute medication and vaccines. He expects the pandemic to affect manpower.
“Agencies will most likely lose staff members from active duty. Many predict that the percentage of employees affected in some way will be between 10 and 40 percent.
“Should a large percentage of staff be impacted, police will activate the internal emergency operations plans, shifting resources to duties considered most critical.
“Operational response will likely increase (dramatically at first), yet with fewer officers available to work, response time will suffer and services will be reduced.”
He said the police would work with officers from the Health Department, security and central agencies to ensure pandemic communications plans “complement and support each other”.
Manning said the risk of exposure during a pandemic would vary.
“The level of risk depends in part on the severity of the pandemic, whether jobs require proximity to people actually or potentially infected with the pandemic virus, or whether police force employees are expected to have either repeated or extended contact with known or suspected virus sources such as co-workers.”
Commission to accept submissions
THE National Procurement Commission is advising government agencies to submit their request for items they need for the Covid-19 preparedness and response.
Acting chief executive officer Simon Bole said the National Executive Council had declared a health emergency in PNG in line with the World Health Organisation’s public health emergency, and PNG being classified as a “very high risk” country for Covid-19.
Cabinet directed the NPC to assist agencies procure priority for the coronavirus preparedness and response.
Cabinet may declare an emergency in the case of civil disturbance, natural disaster, health emergency or matters relating to national security or defence.
The NPC has bought face masks for its employees and clients to wear before coming to the office.
“We also purchased hand sanitizers and place them at the office doorways, office entry and exit points and issue to all staff as part of our organization’s preparedness,” Bole said.