By MIRIAM ZARRIGA
TRAVELLERS from Western must now test negative for Coronavirus (Covid-19) before they can leave the province, Papua New Guinea (PNG) National Pandemic Response Controller David Manning says.
“The travel curbs are mandatory to ensure Covid-19, especially the highly infectious Delta variant, does not spread nationwide,” he added.
Manning told The National in an interview yesterday morning that the tests had to be made mandatory after 22 Delta cases were confirmed in Western and that there was a high chance of a severe outbreak (or surge) of Delta in the province.
“New directives (control measures) will be out soon. The directives will be for those at border provinces to be tested, now that there is a surge of Covid-19 cases there,” he added.
“The test results can take between one and four weeks. All visitors to the border province should have a test done there before returning to Port Moresby or elsewhere,” Manning stressed.
The authorities believe the Delta attack in Western is due to border crossings to Indonesia (West Papua) and back to PNG.
More than 70 education officials led by Education Minister Jimmy Uguro, are now in Western’s Kiunga attending a week-long conference on the implementation of the National Education Plan 2020-2029.
The participants comprised provincial education advisers, representatives from key government departments and agencies, Office of Libraries and Archives, Teaching Service Commission, education official and, Church education agency representatives.
Covid-19 National Pandemic Response Deputy Controller Dr Daoni Esorom said “Western is becoming a public health concern.”
Esorom, in a National Control Centre (NCC) media update on Wednesday afternoon, said “samples of the 79 new Covid-19 cases reported in Western on Tuesday are being sent to Australia for genome sequencing to determine if any the infection is Delta.”
“Currently 30 Delta variant cases were recorded in the country (Western 22, National Capital District seven and Madang one),” he said.
Meanwhile, the West Sepik Provincial Health Authority (WSPHA) has submitted a surge plan last month to the NCC for a partial lockdown to manage the spread of Covid-19 in the border province.
Public health and incident manager Dr Trevor Kelebi said “We are advocating for a provincial lockdown or a partial lockdown with strict compliance to Niupela Pasin, vaccination and mandatory swabbing’’.
Dr Kelebi said West Sepik had 594 positive cases with seven deaths, and were expecting a surge in the coming weeks.
Deputy controller Dr Daoni said an emergency medical team consisting of an emergency specialist doctor, four clinical nurses and an infection prevention control nurse will support WSPHA.
He said the World Health Organisation had three staff on the ground in Vanimo.
“We will support the health authority to respond to the current surge,” Dr Esorom said.