Living with the virus: what Papua New Guinea’s ‘niupela pasin’ looks like


The Port Moresby ‘lockdown’ is over and Prime Minister James Marape has said that Papua New Guinea will have to ‘adjust to living with COVID-19’. Eleven new measures will help show the way for business and PNG citizens alike.

Niupela pasin Marape

Credit: Office of the Prime Minister and NEC/Facebook

The Controller of the National Pandemic Response, David Manning, announced the end of the 14-day lockdown of Port Moresby on Wednesday 12 August, followed swiftly by a range of new measures to keep the virus under control.

‘We have assessed the situation very carefully over the last five months,’ Manning said.’ Whilst our current measures are not as restrictive as those during the State of Emergency, we have learnt a lot to enable us to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 whilst causing as little disruption as possible to the lives of our people.

‘COVID-19 is here and it will be with us for some time into the future. We have to learn to live with it.’

‘COVID-19 is here and it will be with us for some time into the future. We have to learn to live with it. Education, business, government services, churches and religious services as well as cultural and sporting events must be able to continue under the new normal or niupela pasin going forward.’

Late last week, Prime Minister James Marape added: ‘We have to adapt to living with COVID-19 for this year instead of taking on drastic measures. The advice I received from our medical and scientific teams was to adjust to living with COVID-19.’

The 11 new measures come into effect today and include a 10pm to 5am curfew, controls on domestic air travel and the mandatory wearing of masks in Port Moresby.

Story continues after advertisment...

Schools are to open with COVID-19 protocols; public transportation will resume with PMVs carrying only 15 passengers and hand sanitiser; markets remain open with the implementation of niupela pasin protocols that include physical distancing and face masks for both vendors and buyers.

The impact on business

POMCCI’s Rio Fiocco. Credit: Rocky Road

Despite a constantly changing business environment, most traders are keeping on top of the government’s advice, according to Rio Fiocco, President of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry, although this is due in part to large fines for disobeying the new measures.

‘Overall, businesses have adapted to the new normal,’ Fiocco says. ‘You will see now that all shops have the sign saying “No mask, no entry” and people are following that rule and businesses are adapting and getting on with business.’

Fiocco says that the general public are slower in the take up of the rules but that the word is slowing getting out. He adds that the recent 14-day ‘lockdown’ of the capital had a limited effect on business outside of those directly hit by closures such as bookmakers and nightclubs.

‘The biggest impact was that the public buses stopped for two weeks,’ he says. ‘So people couldn’t get to work unless they had could find a private car coming in to town and companies were hiring buses.’

More cases at Ok Tedi

In Western Province, the Ok Tedi mine has continued to discover new COVD-19 cases  following the announcement of a suspension of operations last week.

The first batch of 341 swab samples showed 37 new positive COVID-19 cases.

‘The 11 new measures were carefully thought through and imposed with the intention to stop the spread of COVID-19 but at the same time allow business to continue as normal as possible.’

‘The positive tests confirm our concerns that community transmission is occurring, OTML Managing Director and CEO Musje Werror said in a statement. ‘Given we have now commenced a large-scale testing program there will be more positive results. The health and safety of our employees, families, contractors and communities is of paramount importance and we continue to implement our COVID-19 Management Response program to contain the spread of the virus as quickly as possible’.

Workplace measures

David Manning’s Measure No. 9 sets the protocols required to contain the spread of the virus within workplaces and includes the following:

  • Venues or parts of venues must immediately close for the duration of the pandemic that provide night club activities and services, and only serve alcohol without food
  • Licensed premises that sell takeaway alcohol shall not sell alcohol on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays
  • The PNG Business Council shall ensure businesses develop COVID-19 Continuity Plans for operation in the NCD. All restaurants in the NCD shall submit to the PNG Business Council the physical size of restaurant seating areas and seating plans. The PNG Business Council shall determine maximum patronage for restaurants in the NCD

‘I strongly urge everyone to faithfully observe the health and medical protocols in physical distancing, washing of hands, wearing face masks and staying at home,’ Manning added. ‘COVID-19 is real and is already here in PNG. The 11 new measures were carefully thought through and imposed with the intention to stop the spread of COVID-19 but at the same time allow business to continue as normal as possible.’

Domestic travel

Air Niugini

Credit: Air Niugini/Facebook

The freeing up of domestic travel has been one of the key new moves and there has been some confusion over the new rules.

In a release, Air Niugini attempted to clear things up. ‘Air Niugini’s domestic flights are now open for domestic travel to all airports in PNG except for Lihir, Kieta and Tabubil,’ the company said in a statement.

It added the following points to avoid confusion:

  • From 23:59 Sunday night 16 August, Controller approval is not required for any passengers travelling domestically
  • Sales offices and travel agents can sell tickets without seeking approval if the passenger is travelling on Monday 17 August or afterwards
  • All persons buying tickets are to be provided a copy of the Air Passenger Travel Form (APTF) at the time they buy the ticket. They are not to give this form to the sales office but bring it with them, completed, to check-in
  • MPs and their support staff can travel domestically without Controller approval

For international travel, Manning said there are currently ongoing repatriation flights being arranged but no person – including PNG citizens and permanent residents – is allowed to enter PNG except by aircraft. Traditional border crossings between Indonesia, Australia, Solomon Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia remain suspended.

Leave a Reply