On Friday, June 12, the government of the autonomous region of Bougainville announced that the State of Emergency (SoE) introduced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be extended through August 14. The SoE places limits on movement and travel, however, commercial flights between Bougainville and Papua New Guinea via Buka Airport (BUA) were resumed on Monday, May 18. There are currently no recorded cases of COVID-19 in Bougainville, however, the government of the region considered the threat of an outbreak justified the extension. The government has clarified that elections that are slated to occur in August will occur with the SoE in place.
On Wednesday, June 3, Papua New Guinea's parliament has voted to extend the nationwide SoE introduced due to COVID-19 for two further weeks through Tuesday, June 16. The SoE, which has been in place since March 24, restricts border entry and public movement. Nightclubs, bookmakers, and liquor stores remain closed, while other businesses have been forced to close due to a lack of trade. Parliament is due to bring out further guidance on how the government plans to exit the SoE, including the further reopening of the economy.
Papua New Guinea allowed schools to reopen as of May 4, following a five-week suspension of classes. The wearing of face masks by teachers and students is mandatory, as well as frequent hand-washing. However, school attendance is not compulsory, allowing parents to not take their children to school if they do not believe it is safe.
The curfews in the National Capital District and Central province were lifted on May 4. Businesses including hotels and restaurants are permitted to operate, in addition to pharmacies, banks, supermarkets, and wholesalers. The public has been urged to continue to observe social distancing measures and a ban on public gatherings remains in place. Public transport has resumed operations, albeit with limits on passenger numbers. However, all nonessential workers are to continue staying home.
As of June 12, eight COVID-19 cases have been confirmed across Papua New Guinea, and no associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is expected over 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). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
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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