We should be on alert for virus


THE impact on the national economy of the coronavirus pandemic is going to be wide-ranging and painful.
Everyone agrees on that.
And everyone still has the opportunity to do everything possible now to mitigate the effect not only on the economy but also, more importantly, on the health of the people.
The people, in the face of the national alert, are looking to their Government and leaders to show stern and effective leadership to reassure everyone that everything has been done and is being done to address the killer virus when – not if – it hits the country.
For a start, we can certainly do without the lethargic attitude to the response efforts which will no doubt come back to bite us later.
It will be very costly both in terms of lives and the economy if things are not done right.
Enough of talking.
Roll up the sleeves and get to work – together in a bipartisan way and with the private sector.
The Government should not wait for the announcement of the first PNG person to be affected by the coronavirus or worse, killed, before it calls MPs to Parliament to discuss supplementary funding for example.
We badly need testing facilities in the main centres such as Port Moresby and Lae for starters.
Response can only be effective if there is the ability to confirm the disease in people.
It is equally important to harness the assistance of the private sector to help the response efforts such as increasing the diagnostic testing capacity.
They have the capacity and connections to provide at short notice what is needed urgently.
And there are the developed countries represented here in Port Moresby who we can seek help from, especially in providing immediately testing facilities at this time.
They will help us if we ask, even though they are dealing with the pandemic too.
The private sector will be hit too, forcing redundancy and pay cuts.
Government bailouts will be required with bipartisan support.
In addition, Papua New Guineans learn better by seeing images or role plays, not simply by hearing.
Prime Minister James Marape’s address to the nation last Sunday would have been a lot beneficial if a health expert had made a visual presentation of preventative measures to avoid infection.
What is needed in the face of the global threat is clear and easily understood if the messages are in pictures.
Efforts by some companies and government agencies in producing information pamphlets and leaflets are commendable.
Employers must educate their workers on what to do as regards their health and their families.
No one should be left vulnerable due to ignorance or lack of awareness.
We cannot predict what is coming in the next few weeks or months but we ought to be prepared for any eventuality.
The responses may come at a high cost.
But when this is all over, people should not be pointing at their leaders saying things could have been done to save lives and livelihoods.
It will be too late by then.
In all these measures, if we take care of each other and work together, we will all emerge less unscathed on the other side.
In fact, this terrible moment we are passing through could be our finest hour.
Over to you, leaders.

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