Papua New Guinea’s state of emergency extended for two more months

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In an emergency session of parliament last week, Prime Minister James Marape extended Papua New Guinea’s state of emergency, and the ramifications will be significant.

Prime Minister James Marape. Credit: Prime Minister Office & NEC/Facebook

Today was set to be the last day of Papua New Guinea’s 14-day state of emergency (SOE) after discovering its first case of COVID-19 on 20 March. Instead, after an emergency session of Parliament last Thursday, the current SOE has gone from two weeks to two months.

Following the lead of other countries, Marape is seeking to stop the PNG health system from being overwhelmed by the virus that has seen more wealthy countries run out of ICU beds; Marape reminded Parliament that, with its population of eight million and just 500 doctors, the current pandemic posed a very acute threat to the country.

But he acknowledged the state of emergency was taking a toll on Papua New Guineans.

‘It is keeping families apart and people are unable to travel freely throughout PNG,’ Marape said. ‘But these are the measures that we must take. We do so only because our ultimate goal is to protect, prevent deaths and safeguard the national interest. We simply cannot allow the virus to take hold.’

We round up the important messages from the new two-month lockdown:

Freedom of movement

In a slight relaxation of the SOE travel rules, school and tertiary studies have been allowed to resume and people can take domestic flights which will begin again from today – but international flights remain closed to passengers.

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Air Niugini’s new Acting Chief Executive Officer, Bruce Alabaster, said: ‘The domestic operations will resume but build up to our normal schedule once demand picks up. Hence you will notice that we may combine some services, upgrade equipment on certain sectors, while others maybe downgraded.”

Air Niugini continues flights from the three designated ports of Brisbane, Cairns and Singapore but these are operating only to bring in urgent freight such as medicines, medical equipment, essential personnel, spare parts and to carry outbound passengers. No passengers are being carried into PNG.

Marape announced increased border security measures but highlighted that, with so much coastline, it was a challenge. He also noted that there would be increased attention on the Indonesian border, where there have been a number of illegal crossings reported.

Business impact

The Internal Revenue Commission stated that it will continue to operate during the shutdown and that it has a Business Continuity Plan in place to protect taxpayers during this economic slowdown.

These measures include an extension of the filing due date, deferral of tax payments for business to aid in cash flow, and the refund of GST for hard-hit industries like hospitality, tourism and air transport.

PwC have said that the rules do ‘not introduce substantive policy changes’ and are primarily administrative. ‘The announcements are aimed at the extension of time to comply and in some limited circumstances there is a proposal to defer payments,’ the group said. PwC added that many of the changes required clarification.

Meanwhile, David Manning, the Commissioner of Police and Controller of the State of Emergency, has been investigating, via the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations, reports that business have been sacking workers under the guise of COVID-19.

Agriculture

Local newspapers have reported that the fresh produce industry is being affected because local food supply chains are broken.

Fresh Produce Development Agency’s General Manager, Mark Worinu, reportedly said people in urban centres were being affected by the shortage of supply. ‘For example, the fresh supply chain from the Highlands to coastal regions has been broken as quality produce are not being transported to markets.’

People in villages are still able to supply fresh produce for self-consumption.

PNG’s pork industry is also facing the imminent threat of African swine fever. Farmers and Settlers Association president Wilson Thompson told The National that ‘it is important to PNG in providing food security, stability, rural employment and SME farmers with an income.’

Comments

  1. John Maiyang says

    PMJM can you please explain clearly to PNG decision that SOE extension for 2 months! does that mean all public servants remain close for 2 months or resume duties on 27/04/2020 with the students.

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