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The Papua New Guinea government has taken drastic steps to ensure that the coronavirus (COVID-19) does not enter PNG.
Deputy Prime Minister Davis Steven has also reassured the country that no case of the coronavirus has been reported in PNG yet.
He said the National Executive Council (NEC) has established a COVID-19 ministerial committee chaired by the Minister for Health and HIV-AIDS Jelta Wong, whose role is to oversee the emergency preparedness and response of the government to this outbreak.
“The government reactivated the national emergency operations centre at the Department of Health that had been established during the earthquake disaster and polio outbreak in 2018 to begin the emergency preparedness and response planning,” Steven said.
“We have in place an emergency response plan which was the basis for the cabinet’s approval of K45.33 million (US$13.3 million) for the country to prepare and respond to the outbreak.
“I can inform the nation that your government has released immediately K10 million(US$2.9 million) of the approved K45.33 million, with the balance to be released in the coming days so that all resources and capacity that are required to take care of any confirmed cases are procured and in place.
“So far, more than 287 flights, and 17,500 inbound travelers have been screened.
“Out of the 17,500 travelers screened, seven were classified as persons of interest, and samples collected from them were tested at the Institute of Medical Research in Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province.
“All tests were negative for COVID-19.”
Steven said Foreign Affairs is working closely with the China through PNG Embassy in Beijing to ensure that students who are still in China are well looked after.
“We are planning to bring them home but please bear with us as we put in place a plan to do this with the help of the government of China.
“I am advised by the government of China that these students and other PNG citizens are quite safe in China.”
Steven said at this point in time, no Pacific Island country has reported any confirmed cases of COVID-19, although Australia and New Zealand have reported confirmed cases.
Meanwhile, PNG is at ‘a very high risk’ of the Coronavirus Disease- 2019 or COVID-19.
World Health Organisation Country representative Dr Luo Dapeng said as such PNG must be ready for the worst-case scenario.
He highlighted some of the measures that must be undertaken by the country in order to curb the virus.
“We must ensure that our isolation ward is ready for the confirmed cases, here in Port Moresby as well as other major cities and towns.
“We need to ensure medical oxygen, ventilators, and other vital equipment are in stock.
“Our health workers must be trained, health workers must know how to take the sample correctly from the patient and know how to safely transfer the sample to PNG Institute of Medical Research in Goroka," said Dr Dapeng.
A K10 million (US$2.9 million) has been released last week by the National Government to the National Department of Health, for scaling up work on the prevention of the COVID-19 in the country.
Acting Health Secretary Dr Paison Dakulala said this money will be used for the purchase of equipment such as the Infrared camera to be set up at the different points of entries.
This is from the initial funding ask of K45 million (US$13 million) towards the COVID-19 response.
Dr Dakulala said apart from screening measures at the points of entries, there is now the inclusion of the handheld thermometers to check passengers.
Apart from the Coronavirus Help Desk set up at Jackson's International Terminal, an isolation ward has been set up at the back of Port Moresby General Hospital to isolate suspected cases.
Papua New Guinea, despite not having any confirmed case of the COVID-19 like other countries globally, is ramping up measures to safeguard its population from the deadly virus.
Among some of these measures is the call for Papua New Guineans to be more observant of good basic hygiene practices.
Acting Health Secretary Dr Paison Dakulala reiterated this call Monday.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/NBC NEWS PNG/PACNEWS
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