Covid-19 rife in PNG's parliament precinct

12:11 pm on 22 April 2021

Preliminary testing for Covid-19 among staff at Papua New Guinea's parliament precinct indicates a quarter of them are infected.

Speaker Job Pomat today told MPs in the house he had received a letter from PNG's Pandemic Response Controller "questioning the serious state of the Covid-19 infections" at parliament.

The Papua New Guinea Parliament building in Port Moresby.

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

Controller David Manning advised compulsory testing for everyone working at parliament.

Pomat said that prior to the letter he had already issued a similar directive.

"I have now issued further directives for compulsory testing to be conducted to both members of staff of parliament and political staff," Pomat explained.

"While testing is still going on to cover the rest of the staff, I have received preliminary results from the 167 cases tested, and inform this honourable house that an alarming 42 cases have turned out positive."

It is understood the tests were carried out in the past week, and that the vast majority of those who tested positive were staff rather than MPs.

However, as many as seven MPs tested positive to the virus earlier this year.

"Our very serious concern is that the majority of those 42 cases are directly employed with the chamber services who are in direct contact with the whole host of us national leaders, all members," Pomat explained.

"That in itself is a very serious threat, not only to us as leaders but also to staff of the national parliament."

The Speaker later adjourned parliament for almost four months.

Job Pomat.

Job Pomat. Photo: Facebook / Office of the Speaker

Meanwhile, the controller's latest update this morning reported nine new deaths from Covid-19, taking the death toll to 99. Furthermore, the total number of confirmed cases of the virus across PNG has reached 10,338.

Over 4,000 cases are in the National Capital District, where PNG's main hospital, Port Moresby General, is under severe strain, particularly with many health workers having tested positive to the virus.

Hospitals in outer provinces are also struggling to maintain services in the face of the surge in cases, amid warnings from the World Health Organisation last week of the potential for PNG's epidemic to worsen.

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