By REBECCA KUKU and CLIFFORD FAIPARIK
SECURITY along PNG’s border with Indonesia has been stepped up to the stop illegal entry of people and the incursion of the coronavirus pandemic, an official says.
Police Minister Bryan Kramer, representing Prime Minister James Marape, said State of Emergency Controller and Police Commissioner David Manning had sent police officers and soldiers to the border with Indonesia in Western and West Sepik. He did not say how many.
“The 14-day lockdown is to close provincial borders to enable the Operation Command to step up our preparedness and ability to respond to any serious case, spread or transmission of Covid-19.”
Security officers are setting up their operations and carrying out assessments to ensure “we have the ability to secure our borders”.
Kramer said talks were ongoing with the Autonomous Region of Bougainville on the border with the Solomon Islands.
“We can’t just deploy our defence force to Bougainville as it is an autonomous region. There are protocols in place in terms of how we engage in policing and setting up border security between us and the Solomon Islands.”
Meanwhile, Indonesian health officers said there were 22 Covid-19 cases in the border cities of Merauke and Jayapura.
“There are 22 cases reported in Jayapura City (about 100 kms from Vanimo, West Sepik) and 10 in Merauke City (about 100 kms from Daru in Western),” said Silwanus Sumule, the Papua Province Covid-19 handling task force spokesperson.
“These patients are now under surveillances. The cases are increasing due to the lack of health safety equipment and personal protection equipment.”
Sumule told the Indonesian media yesterday that people under surveillance were in a state of moderate pain.
“Their conditions are mild to moderate pain. If someone is seriously ill, then a ventilator must be installed.”
Jayapura-based PNG Consular-General Geoffrey Wiri said Merauke and Jayapura cities had been in a lockdown since March 17.
“But we still have people illegally crossing the border into both countries and that has to be stopped immediately,” he said.
West Sepik provincial administrator Conrad Tilau said the province had been in a lockdown since Thursday.
“The lockdown is to prevent illegal trading between Papua New Guineans and Indonesians in Jayapura,” he said.
“The people in West Sepik are heeding the Covid-19 awareness and stopped trading with Indonesians.
“But trading is still taking place especially by vanilla sellers from East Sepik. And it is very bad.”
“They are still taking their vanilla across to Jayapura city.”
Barker: State may need to borrow more for covid-19
By PETER ESILA
THE Government may need to borrow more to effectively deal with the current Covid-19 situation, in the war against an invisible enemy, an economist says.
Institute of National Affairs executive director Paul Barker said it was a “war-like” situation which warranted a change in rules by the Government.
“The Government has its sets of rules. It is not meant to be borrowing more than 30 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. It (later) lifted (that) to 45 per cent,” he said.
“But this is like a war situation. When you have wars, the government changes the rules.
“They need to borrow more to tackle the immediate issue. This is a war against an invisible enemy.”
Barker said within that difficult constraint where the Government didn’t have access to “unmeasurable amounts of money, it is going to be needing that support from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund”.
He said support should also be available in the domestic market.
“It will need the cooperation of all players including the commercial banks to be sympathetic, resilient and so on but supportive.
“If the Government borrows more, it has to repay that.
“It has to be repaid by the PNG community.
“It is going to be crucial that the economy is enabled to recover again quickly so that people can pay taxes, companies can pay taxes, and the debt level can be brought back down again.
“You do not want the Government to be paying massive amounts on debt servicing forever.”
He said it was a challenging time for everyone including businesses who “see their revenue streams suddenly drying up”.
Nurses return to work, told only some to get gear
By LULU MARK
NURSES have been told that the personal protective equipment (PPE) issued by the Health Department are only for those in the coronavirus (Covid-19) response group.
Health and HIV/AIDS Minister Jelta Wong relayed this last Friday to the nurses who went on strike last week in protest over the lack of personal protective equipment such as face masks, sanitisers, gowns and goggles to those working at the Port Moresby General Hospital. The nurses have since returned to work.
“You are telling me that you don’t have PPEs? My numbers are telling me that you already have them,” Wong said.
“I am not allowing you to go to work for the Covid-19 response without the PPE gear. Whoever works in the Covid-19 response will get something.”
He clarified that not all would be provided the PPEs but only those selected by the hospital management for the Covid-19 operation.
“No Covid-19 person should be coming to the hospital or normal clinics. The rapid response team goes after them, contain them, home-isolate them. They take them to the isolation centre if it gets worse.
“We have secured isolation centres elsewhere from the hospital so that it doesn’t contaminate the hospitals.”
The nurses also demanded to be properly trained on how to handle coronavirus cases, and to be paid risk and duty allowances.
Association president Frederick Kebai said the nurses’ lives were being put at risk and they had to be protected at all times.
Wong said some of the concerns raised were administrative issues which should have been addressed by the Department of Personnel Management and the Health Secretary, the Provincial Health Authority and hospital management.
He invited the association general secretary Gibson Siune to join the Covid-19 national operation centre representing the nurses.
Prepare for more job losses, warns economist
By PETER ESILA
THE country has been warned to prepare for job losses due to the impacts of the covid-19 pandemic.
Institute of National Affairs executive director Paul Barker urged the Government to make sure that people do not lose their jobs.
He said last Friday that with no social protection services, people would have to turn to their wantok for support. Barker said tourism all over the world was the first industry to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic with the closing of borders.
“While we do not need the cruise ships in PNG, they still provide a livelihood to people selling artifacts and other goods and services,” he said.
“Hotels and other facilities immediately lost tourists. In PNG, they may not be a big industry by standard of industry in Fiji or Vanuatu, Australia. But it employs a lot of people in catering, cleaning, food suppliers, hotels, restaurants, boat operators. If they do not have guests, it is a problem.”
He said globally, around 320 million were employed in the tourism industry – about 10 per cent of the workforce.
“It is a significant industry in PNG even though it is not as big as agriculture. But agriculture is a link for tourism in catering and hotels,” he said.
“People should not be evicted for not being able to pay the rent to enable people as much as possible to get incomes, this requires a lot of cooperation.”
People urged to farm land, grow own food
PEOPLE have been urged to make use of their land by growing crops for sustenance as more border restrictions are put in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Institute of National Affairs executive director Paul Barker said it was a difficult economic time for the world.
“PNG has some advantages over some countries as 80 per cent of the population is still out there in the rural areas,” he said.
“If you have land, grow crops for your needs. Make sure to plant a lot and teach your children to do so too.”
He urged the Government to make land available to those who do not have land.
“For example, during the second world war, cities in Europe and Japan and other places, that were dependent on international trade for food, actually made large areas of urban land available as allotment gardens so that people could actually plant and provide their own food and vegetables.
“Hopefully it will be a good year we would have good crops. Globally food supply is looking quite good for wheat, rice, main staples. So there should not be any global food supply shortages so long as we do not start blocking ships.”
Ministers clash on media briefings
POLICE Minister Bryan Kramer says he has no interest in what Health and HIV/AIDS Minister Jelta Wong may or may not have said about him, nor is he offended.
He was responding to a statement by Wong to reporters last Friday that Kramer “has been contained” already.
The two ministers yesterday said they would be holding separate media conferences today at 4pm.
Kramer yesterday questioned if Wong’s reported statement was newsworthy at a time when the country was in a State of Emergency.
“We are going to rely on the media to do sensible reporting during this period. Let us focus on reporting issues that help keep our people informed and safe,” he said.
Wong told reporters last Friday that Kramer was not a doctor or a nurse and that “he just picks up information from certain people and pushes it up and it causes mass panic and irritation among medical facilities. But he has been contained already”.
Kramer, who held a media briefing on the covid-19 at 3pm yesterday, said there would be only one held daily at 4pm.
“The covid-19 daily press conference will be held by the Prime Minister James Marape, myself or the SOE controller,” he said.
Wong later sent a statement to all media outlets that he would be holding a daily press conference at 4pm starting today.