Australia suspends flights from Papua New Guinea to Cairns


The Australian government is suspending passenger flights from Papua New Guinea to Cairns, one of a number of measures that will impact business travel between the two countries. Meanwhile, PNG is getting ready for further COVID-19 mitigation measures.

Air Niugini is currently the only commercial airline flying between PNG and Cairns. Credit: Air Niugini

The measure was announced by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison this morning. He said the move was being made ‘on the basis of medical advice and on the basis of discussions I’ve had with Prime Minister Marape over the last few days and with the Premier of Queensland.’

Morrison said the suspension would be for a period of two weeks, after which it would be reassessed.

He emphasised that freight services would not be affected.

‘Freight, though, I stress, will continue, and be supported to ensure that necessary supplies are able to get from Cairns to Papua New Guinea.’

He said the suspension included all charter flights, although he said there would be ‘limited exemptions for medevac and other critical flights’.

Brisbane flights

Travel between Brisbane and Papua New Guinea will also be affected, as will fly in/fly-out (FIFO) workers.

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‘We’ll be reducing passenger caps by one-quarter from flights from Port Moresby to Brisbane, effective at midnight tonight,’ said Morrison.

‘We’ll be suspending all outbound travel exemptions by Australians to Papua New Guinea, except for essential and critical workers, including humanitarian and medevac-related activity.

The suspension will include ‘general FIFO workers’, affecting a number of PNG mining operations, including the Ok Tedi mine in Western Province. Ok Tedi Mining had already announced a suspension of flights to and from Cairns.

‘If you’re here, you stay,’ said Morrison. ‘We cannot risk people going into those areas and back to Australia.’

Australia is also sending 8000 vaccines urgently for frontline PNG health workers.

Isolation strategy

PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape is expected to announce further COVID-19 mitigation measures today due to the rise in cases in PNG.

Describing it as a ‘national isolation strategy’, he has flagged that it will not be a ‘total lockdown’ but would involve further restrictions on people movements ‘without stopping business or government’.

‘Remain in your provinces, remain in your villages, remain in your districts,’ Marape advised PNG’s population.

Business support

Meanwhile, PNG’s two largest business organisations, the Business Council of PNG and the PNG Chamber of Commerce and industry, have issued a joint statement calling on businesses to ‘take the lead’ in implementing COVID-safe practices.

‘Given the recent spike in community transmission resulting in increased positive COVID-19 cases being reported, and the continued constraints faced by our health facilities, it is important that we take a lead in promoting and practicing COVID-19 presentation protocols,’ said the statement.

‘We stand ready to assist where we can as partners in this challenge.’

In other COVID-19 related developments:

  • The Waigani Supreme Court and the National Courts, including the Court Registry, will be in lockdown for two weeks after two judges and two officers of corporate services tested positive for COVID-19.  It has been reported that only urgent cases, such as bail, deportation, evictions and exceptional circumstances, will be attended by electronic hearing. (FM100)
  • Puma Energy PNG has re-started its ‘working-from-home measures’ after cases in Port Moresby spiked and an employee tested positive for COVID-19. ‘Our office operations are not affected. However, as a matter of being safe, we have commenced our business continuity plans and are continuing to run the business remotely through our other sites and particularly from homes. Close contact employees have been identified and have been tested; [they] have all returned negative results,’ Hulala Tokome, PUMA’s Country General Manager told The National.


  1. Johnny Diosen Korong says

    What do you mean whenbyou say we donate to help it?

  2. John Jamaica says

    In Australia we jail corruption and banish incompetence.

    But for PNG – we donate to help it !!

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