PNG province bans Chinese visitors over virus fears

9:19 pm on 29 January 2020

Papua New Guinea's East Sepik province has banned any Chinese national arriving there by plane.

Air Niugini, Papua New Guinea

An Air Niugini plane at East Sepik's Boram airport where officials have been instructed to prevent any Chinese arriving until the coronavirus threat is lifted. Photo: RNZI

The ban has been ordered by the provincial governor, Allan Bird, in a bid to stop the life-threatening coronavirus spreading to East Sepik.

Chinese authorities say the number of deaths from the virus, which has its epicentre in Wuhan province, has reached 132.

PNG's newspaper the National says Mr Bird introduced the ban out of concern that national borders are not being properly monitored for the virus.

He took action after reports that more than 100 Chinese were allowed into Port Moresby on Monday without undergoing any medical checks.

The governor says he has warned airlines not to bring any Chinese into East Sepik.

He says he has instructed officials at Wewak's Boram airport to turn away any Chinese national arriving by plane "until the threat of coronavirus is lifted".

Earlier, PNG's national carrier Air Niugini announced it would only accept PNG-bound passengers originating in China if they could produce medical clearances.

Echoing the concerns of their neighbouring province, West Sepik provincial government leaders met today to discuss safety and quarantine checks along the border of Indonesia and PNG where the province is located.

The ABC reports that West Sepik's leaders are concerned about people moving along the border and the possible spread of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea's largest hospital has denied the health minister's claims that a ward has been set aside for anyone showing symptoms of Coronavirus.

Health minister Jelta Wong said in a statement on Monday that Ward 7 at Port Moresby General Hospital had been set aside as an isolation ward for any suspected cases.

But the hospital's chief executive, Paki Molumi, told the NBC he wasn't aware of any such arrangement.

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