The government of the autonomous region of Bougainville will extend the state of emergency in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) for another 21 days through September 21. Under the state of emergency, there are limits on movement and travel and requirements for social distancing, despite the referendum election underway.
Commercial flights between Bougainville via Buka Airport (BUA) and Port Moresby's Jackson International Airport (POM) have resumed. Individuals wishing to travel to Bougainville will be required to obtain a quarantine medical clearance certificate obtained 48-72 hours prior to entry, and will be required to quarantine for 14 days. Commercial flights to and from Papua New Guinea remain limited and travelers may only enter by air via Port Moresby from Brisbane or Cairns. Individuals are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival and must self-isolate in a government approved hotel for 14 days. Special cases may see the quarantine period reduced to 7 days. Domestic flights between provinces are operating for essential workers, business travelers, students, returning residents, and those seeking medical assistance, and passengers will be required to fill in a form which will be reviewed and approved within 48 hours by authorities prior to purchasing tickets.
Prime Minister James Marape lifted lockdown measures in Port Moresby, implemented amid a surge in COVID-19 on Wednesday, August 12. All restrictions introduced during the two-week lockdown have been lifted, including the closure of schools and all non-essential businesses, the suspension of some public transport, and a 22:00 to 05:00 (local time) curfew across the National Capital District. The move comes despite a continued surge in COVID-19 cases in Papua New Guinea, with the number of confirmed cases in the country more than trebling in the last two weeks. Whilst cases were initially concentrated in Port Moresby, the virus has since spread to at least nine provinces over the last week.
Social distancing and hygiene measures, including the compulsory use of face masks in public places and a ban on gatherings of more than 15 people, are likely to remain in force in Port Moresby and across Papua New Guinea.
As of Monday, August 17, health authorities have confirmed one COVID-19 case in Bougainville, and 323 cases and three associated deaths in Papua New Guinea as a whole. However, testing capabilities within the country remain severely limited and the actual number of infections is likely to be significantly higher. Further spread of the virus is to be expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed. Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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