Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Papua New Guinea maintaining state of emergency through at least June 2. Travel to Bougainville resumed. Entry ban, border closures ongoing.

This alert affects Papua New Guinea

This alert began 19 May 2020 06:12 GMT and is scheduled to expire 02 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Curfews, movement restrictions, heightened security, transport and business disruptions, enhanced health screenings, quarantine measures

Authorities are maintaining a state of emergency across Papua New Guinea through at least June 2 due to ongoing efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). However, officials continue to reduce restrictions within the country. As of May 18, leaders in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville have allowed commercial flights to resume, after the central government also further reduced limitations on domestic air travel. Arriving passengers are only allowed to enter Bougainville via Buka Airport (BUA), but officials do not require a quarantine period after entering the region, provided passengers have quarantined in other areas and possess appropriate documentation. Authorities will quarantine other travelers in government-designated facilities for 14 days and isolate passengers exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19 at a government-operated center in Buka.

Public gathering restrictions remain in effect, with authorities allowing customary gatherings of no more than four people. However, exceptions are in place for some businesses, including hotels, banks, pharmacies, and supermarkets. The government has instructed reopened companies to implement safe work practices and to allow nonessential staff to stay at home through the state of emergency. Authorities are also allowing sports and religious activities to continue, with physical distancing measures imposed on some religious services. Universities and tertiary schools have reopened. However, provincial and local governments could reinstate or enhance restrictions if more COVID-19 cases emerge. Local authorities could shutter entertainment venues, liquor stores, public markets, and street vendors and prevent unnecessary movement. Reports indicate that food challenges are emerging in some areas, and increasing looting, robberies, and price gouging cannot be ruled out. Heightened security is likely, particularly in major cities.

Public transport has resumed throughout much of the country with limits on passenger capacity. Lingering disruptions and schedule changes are likely. Drivers in some parts of the country have complained of enforcement by police, and public motor vehicle (PMV) drivers held a one-day strike in Jiwaka and Eastern Highland provinces May 13. Similar actions are possible in other areas of Papua New Guinea and could cause temporary transport disruptions.

Officials have allowed flights to resume to border areas and lifted requirements for passengers to obtain written approval before flying. Flag carrier Air Niugini (PX) is operating a regular, though reduced, schedule to most domestic destinations. Authorities are still requiring passengers to complete a form with contact details before boarding flights. The government has also lifted a ban on international flights, but disruptions remain possible on international routes due to decreased demand. PX has maintained limited services to Singapore, Brisbane, and Cairns, primarily for cargo flights and departing passengers.

The land border with Indonesia remains closed. Officials deployed more military personnel to the border crossing, though reports of illegal crossings continue. Authorities have banned cruise ships and passenger yachts with more than 15 people; however, ports remain open for cargo shipments with workers wearing protective gear.

Travel Restrictions

Authorities continue to ban most foreign nationals from entering the country, except for permanent residents. Officials have intensified health screenings for inbound passengers. Staff at Jacksons International Airport (POM) and other ports of entry are using thermal scanners to monitor patients for possible symptoms. Immigration and customs officials also require health declarations and travel history information before allowing passengers into the country. Officials may deny entry, require self-quarantine, or quarantine arriving passengers suspected of having COVID-19, depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Postpone travel if affected by travel restrictions. Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Prepare to discuss and provide evidence for recent travel history. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic mission. Plan for possible ground shipping and travel delays; seek alternative routes and shipping methods for time-sensitive cargo.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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