2 Jul 2021

PNG moves to curb Covid-19 by limiting air travel

3:00 pm on 2 July 2021

Papua New Guinea's government is moving to restrict travel as the country battles to control rising Covid-19 case numbers, but the leader of the opposition party says he will challenge the new rules.

Air Niugini, Papua New Guinea

Air Niugini, Papua New Guinea Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

PNG is struggling with widespread community transmission of the virus, with over 17,000 confirmed cases and climbing.

Police commissioner and pandemic controller David Manning yesterday placed strict limits on who can travel by air between provinces, at the same time as revoking a number of other edicts that were recently issued.

Much of PNG is not interconnected with highways, so people are dependant on air travel between to reach many regions and villages.

Those who are fully vaccinated will still be allowed to travel, and some domestic air travel will still be allowed for: medical treatment, people returning home, students going home or to their educational institute, essential business, and emergencies (including repatriation of the dead).

Papua New Guinea MP for Vanimo-Green, Belden Namah.

Papua New Guinea opposition party leader Belden Namah. Photo: Alex Smith

However, PNG's opposition leader Belden Namah spoke out against restricting the travel of unvaccinated people.

"I will challenge it in court. This is in direct breach of Section 52 of the Constitution," he said.

The new rules also require travellers checking in for flights to stick to physical distancing and hygiene rules and have their temperatures checked; anyone with a temperature 37.5C or above will be stopped from boarding the flight unless it is a medivac or emergency flight.

Each province can choose whether it will require new arrivals to be tested for Covid-19, and those who refuse can be quarantined by the province for 14 days.

David Manning, PNG's State of Emergency Controller and Police Commissioner.

Police commissioner and pandemic controller David Manning. Photo: PNG PM Media

The new rules stipulate that any organisation or person who allows people onto flights in breach of the rules will have committed an offence.

A previous version of the rules led to criticism, and Manning emphasised that the new rules should not compromise individuals' rights being respected and protected at all cost.

"There will be no mandatory vaccination, nor situations created to force people to get the Covid-19 vaccine," he said.

"This will always remain a personal choice for every Papua New Guinean and we respect that.

"It was not our intention to marginalize those who have not been vaccinated, nor force them to be vaccinated, but to ensure that those who have been vaccinated are free to travel when and where-ever they wish domestically," Manning said.

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