Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: PNG orders 21-day shutdown for East New Britain Province as of April 7. Transport resuming. Entry ban, border crossings remain restricted.

This alert affects Papua New Guinea

This alert began 07 Apr 2020 05:40 GMT and is scheduled to expire 30 Apr 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Preventive restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Heightened security, transport and business disruptions, enhanced health screenings; possible quarantine

Summary
Officials have ordered a 21-day shutdown in East New Britain Province from April 7 following a confirmed case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Specifics of the order remain unclear, but authorities will restrict commercial flights to the province. Provincial leaders could prevent nonessential work and public transport during the period. Authorities could also require nonessential businesses to remain closed.

The order follows an extension of a nationwide state of emergency, April 6, for two months. The government has instructed businesses to implement safe work practices and to allow nonessential staff to remain at home through the state of emergency. However, the government has relaxed movement restrictions. Public transport has resumed as of April 7 with social distancing measures in place, though lingering disruptions and schedule changes are likely. Domestic flights have restarted on routes between Port Moresby, Mt. Hagen, Lae, Madang, and Rabaul, with enhanced security and health screenings at airports. International flight operations remain suspended as of April 7, but limited services to Singapore, Brisbane, and Cairns are available, primarily for cargo flights and passengers departing Papua New Guinea. Interprovincial travel remains suspended for nonessential reasons through at least June 5, and authorities have erected checkpoints on some major roadways.

The government has closed the land border with Indonesia. Officials deployed more military personnel to the border crossing as of April 7 amid reports of illegal crossings. Authorities have banned cruise ships and passenger yachts with more than 15 people and closed most ports throughout the country. Any international passengers and vessels seeking quarantine clearance must arrive at Port Moresby's Motukea Port, Lae Port, Port of Madang, and Rabaul Port.

Stricter measures may be implemented at the provincial and local levels, particularly if any COVID-19 cases emerge. Governments 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 looting and robbery cannot be ruled out. People attempted to loot several foreign-owned businesses in Lae April 3. Increase security is likely, particularly in major cities.

Travel Restrictions

Authorities continue to ban most foreign nationals from entering the country; only Papua New Guinean passport holders and permanent residents are allowed into the country. 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 that they suspect of having COVID-19, depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Advice
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.

Resources
Ministry of Health: www.health.gov.pg

National Airports Corporation: www.nac.com.pg

PNG Ports Corporation: www.pngports.com.pg