PNG parliament thrust into uncertainty as MPs test positive

5:15 pm on 26 November 2020

Papua New Guinea's political crisis has been thrust into new uncertainty after three MPs tested positive for Covid-19.

The three MPs were in Prime Minister James Marape's camp at Loloata Island during the ongoing political stand-off.

The Papua New Guinea Parliament building in Port Moresby.

The Papua New Guinea Parliament building in Port Moresby. Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koroi Hawkins

A member who first tested positive was isolated away from the rest of the government camp on Loloata Island, before contact tracing unearthed two more cases.

Testing is underway for all parliamentarians who were in close contact with the three MPs.

Parliament's Speaker Job Pomat has been advised by health officials that the House would only be safe to sit again if testing clears a majority of MPs.

The National Control Centre's Incident Manager, Daoni Esorom said the Speaker was given three directions.

"Number one, to make sure that parliament is safe if there is any sitting; number two, you need to test all the parliamentary staff who were in Loloata, and the contacts," he explained.

"And number three, in the event that you find somebody who is positive on the parliamentary staff and they've gone into the parliament we need to decontaminate the parliament."

The issue of when parliament is next to sit is already subject to a Supreme Court application by the Opposition challenging last week's sitting when the Marape government adjourned the house until April.

The Opposition wanted to sit again next week as it planned a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister, but the new infections appear to have disrupted these plans.

The Supreme Court case has been adjourned until Monday.

Papua New Guinea prime minister James Marape.

C Photo: PNG PM media

Talasea cluster grows

The office of PNG's Pandemic Controller, David Manning, reported fifteen new cases of Covid-19 overnight.

This includes three members of PNG's parliament confirmed yesterday to have contracted the virus in the National Capital District.

But it also includes 12 more cases from a significant cluster in Talasea District of West New Britain province which now has 42 confirmed cases, thiorty of which were confirmed in the past several days.

Manning's office said that the country's total number of cases is now at 645, including seven known deaths.

Of the 22 provinces in the country, 16 have had confirmed cases of the virus.

PNG Pandemic Response Controller, David Manning

PNG Pandemic Response Controller, David Manning Photo: EMTV