Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: PNG orders restrictions in Port Moresby, Central and Western provinces through April 30 due to COVID-19. Entry ban, border closures ongoing.

This alert affects Papua New Guinea

This alert began 18 Apr 2020 06:01 GMT and is scheduled to expire 04 May 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

Summary
Officials have ordered restrictions for the National Capital District and Western and Central provinces through 2359 April 30 to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Authorities will enforce a 2000-0600 daily curfew in these areas. Travel is only allowed for medical treatments, emergencies, and exempt groups, such as medical and essential public workers, diplomatic and international organization personnel, and specific transport staff. Officials have banned all public gatherings, outside of essential services, and limited all other meetings to four or fewer people. All public transport, including taxis, is suspended; people may use private vehicles. Officials have closed almost all entertainment and sporting venues and suspended church services. Restaurants may remain open for takeout orders only. Markets may also remain open, but gathering limits apply for roadside markets. Officials have outlawed the sale, purchase, and consumption of alcohol. Similar conditions are likely in East New Britain Province, which officials placed under "shutdown" orders, April 7, for three weeks.

A nationwide state of emergency remains in place through at least June 5. The government has instructed businesses to implement safe work practices and to allow nonessential staff to stay at home through the state of emergency. However, the government has relaxed movement restrictions in areas not under specific orders. Public transport has resumed in many parts of the country, with social distancing measures in place, though lingering disruptions and schedule changes are likely. Authorities will suspend domestic flights from April 20, but officials will continue to approve flights on a case by case basis; flag carrier Air Niugini plans to continue selling seats as of April 18. International flight operations remain suspended as of April 18, 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, including main routes to Port Moresby.

The government has closed the land border with Indonesia. 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 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 not under national government orders, 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

Air Niugini: www.airniugini.com.pg