Reports by SAMUEL BARIASI, AILEEN KWARAGU, HELEN TARAWA, LULU MARK
WORK was suspended for some time at the Rita Flynn Court Covid-19 isolation facility in Port Moresby yesterday over a pay issue raised by contract workers.
Facility manager Dr Gary Nou said the affected workers who made up 80 per cent of the workforce had not been paid for five fortnights. They received their last pay before June.
“We employed them here to fill the gap because we can’t pull (workers) from the National Capital District Health Authority structure,” he said.
They returned to work yesterday after authority chairman David Toua assured them that the pay issue would be sorted tomorrow (Friday).
Toua said “if we are going to address Covid-19 in an appropriate fashion, we need these people to be ready, able and willing to provide all of the care. They are working long hours on the frontline and allowing themselves to be vulnerable to a pandemic for which there is no cure”.
Nou said of the 60 who worked as clinicians or infection prevention control and surveillance officers, 50 were contract staff and 10 were from the health authority.
He said it was difficult to manage the facility when the 50 staged the protest.
“The issue is pay and the staff need to get paid on time,” he said.
“They are frustrated because they are working long hours but not adequately compensated. The pays are not coming on time. They are really good hardworking people who work 12-hour shifts from 8am to 10pm.”
He said when the operation started, the 50 workers had to work without pay for three months.
He said workers should also be paid overtime allowance because there was no risk allowance.
Boroko market to be closed for cleaning up, says Parkop
THE busy Boroko market in Port Moresby is expected to be closed for a few days to allow city and health authorities to have it cleaned, says National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop.
“We have problems fitting vendors elsewhere so most likely we will close the market for a few days to clean it up,” he said.
“We will do an induction for three or four days and then ask the National Pandemic Response Controller David Manning to allow us to reopen it.”
Manning had issued an order on Tuesday for the market to be closed. City Hall was not aware of it until yesterday. Parkop said they had considered the vendors who needed to use it to generate income.
“It is not easy for us to close the market as we need to feed our people and keep our vendors trading and earning an income,” he said.
“Since its opening, the Boroko market has been popular as it is located in the centre of the city and generally safe.”
Yesterday, it was business as usual at the market.
“I sighted the order issued by Manning but the market is near the Covid-19 isolation facility at Rita Flynn and is not a danger to anyone.”
Under-12 children, others exempted from wearing masks in public, says Manning
CHILDREN under 12 are exempted from wearing masks in public, according to Order 10 issued by National Pandemic Response Controller David Manning on Tuesday.
He was clarifying an earlier instruction to Port Moresby residents that they must wear masks in public places.
The new order states that apart from children under 12, others exempted include persons with underlying medical conditions which inhibit their ability to wear a mask, those playing sports, persons unable to wear or remove a mask without assistance.
People are also allowed to remove their masks when eating, drinking or taking medication.
Police urged city residents to wear masks at all times in public.
Met Supt Perou N’dranou said even family members travelling in a vehicle must wear masks.
“We cannot expect the police to remind everyone every time to wear masks,” he said.
“Even if you are in a vehicle with your family, you should still wear a mask because you are still going to get out at some point.
“If you step outside of your house or vehicle without a mask then you have already breached a law.”
He said the cells at the Boroko police station were already full.
“We cannot arrest everyone who does not wear a mask. All we can do is appeal to the public to adhere to the measures.
“Police also have their primary duties. We cannot be focusing on enforcing Covid-19 measures and forget about fundamental policing,” N’dranou said.
Parliament sitting this month to go ahead: Paita
THE sitting of Parliament this month will proceed as planned despite the spike in the number of Covid-19 cases in Port Moresby, an official says.
Leader of Government Business Rainbo Paita told The National that he would discuss with Speaker Job Pomat and acting Clerk to Parliament Kala Aufa how to conduct a “near-normal” parliament sitting.
“The sitting arrangements and sometimes interactions in Parliament is not within the protocols that have been placed by the Covid-19 Center,” Paita said.
“I’m waiting to have a discussion with the speaker as to how we can have near-normal parliament sessions.
“This parliament session is important because of some important papers to be put forward.”
Paita, also the Minister for Finance and Rural Development, said the Organic Law on Oil and Gas and Independent Commission Against Corruption Bill would be tabled and debated.
“There will be a few papers that we want to endorse in Parliament. Once cabinet meets and endorses important agendas then we will give out the list,” he said.
Paita also confirmed that Pomat remains the Speaker after resigning from the People’s National Congress Party.
“The (PNC) party has moved to the Opposition so it would not be proper to have an opposition member as Speaker,” he said.
“In his own wisdom, he took a neutral position by resigning from his political party.
“We on the government side do not have any issue with it. It’s probably a good call for him to take a neutral position.”
Traffic police ensuring that motorists are wearing masks
Traffic police and city reservists in Port Moresby yesterday began enforcing the wearing of masks and physical distancing for people travelling in vehicles.
Senior Sergeant Phillip Paru said traffic officers last week had conducted awareness on what people were required to do but still some motorists were not complying.
“We have come across taxis carrying more than three passengers with some passenger not wearing masks,” he said.
In terms of physical distancing when in cars, the drivers have to transport maximum of three passengers and make sure the passengers are wearing a mask. That’s the new practice motorists have to follow,” Paru said.