PNG bus operators warned against overloading

12:13 pm on 29 April 2020

Public Motor Vehicle operators in Papua New Guinea face hefty fines or jail if they breach state of emergency rules about social distancing.

Public motor vehicle, Papua New Guinea.

Public motor vehicle, Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

State of Emergency Controller David Manning said operators had been ignoring public transport rules put in place as part of the country's response to the pandemic.

In standard 25-seater PMVs, only 15 passengers are allowed, while all other transport vehicles are restricted to five less people than licensed, and taxis permitted only two passengers.

Mr Manning, who is also Police Commissioner, said tougher penalties were now in place, with operators breaking rules liable to a US$14-thousand fine (50-thousand kina) or imprisonment.

He said police would monitor bus stops and arrest operators who didn't comply.

PMVs and other forms of public transport have slowly resumed business since last week, following weeks of suspended operations as part of the pandemic response.

In order for PMVs and other vehicles to resume operations, PNG authorities required operators to take measures around social distancing and hygiene, including provision of hand sanitisers and regular sanitising of seats.

Public Motor Vehicle, Central province, Papua New Guinea

A standard 25-seater Public Motor Vehicle at a bus depot in PNG's Central Province, waiting for first passengers. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Commissioner Manning said Papua New Guineans needed to understand that the measures were put in place to protect them from Covid-19 and they must adhere to them.

He warned the "no-care attitude" of some citizens could lead to deaths if community transmission of the virus was enabled because people don't follow instructions.

PNG currently has eight confirmed covid-19 cases across several provinces, although testing remains limited.