Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Papua New Guinea authorities requiring people to wear face masks in Port Moresby as of July 24 due to COVID-19; other measures in place.

  • Alert Begins: 24 Jul 2020 12:23 PM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 07 Aug 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Heightened security; possible transport and business disruptions

Papua New Guinea authorities are requiring people to wear face masks in public areas of the capital Port Moresby as of July 24 to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). While authorities have not announced specific punishment measures for people not wearing masks, transgressors of the rule may face a fine as well as possible detention. Officials have also closed nightclubs and are prohibiting some gatherings such as provincial and national church functions.

The government continues to maintain restrictions nationwide. Gatherings of more than 100 people remain banned. Sports and most religious activities are permitted, with physical distancing measures imposed on some religious services. Licensed gambling venues and horse racing venues are only allowed to operate on specific days of the week. Establishments that sell alcohol, including restaurants and gambling venues, are required to practice safe hygiene practices. Companies that have reopened must comply with government mandates aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus disease; such directives may vary by industry and type of establishment. National, provincial, or local authorities could reinstate or tighten restrictions if the number of COVID-19 cases increases. Local authorities could shutter entertainment venues, liquor stores, public markets, and street vendors, as well as prevent unnecessary movement. A state of emergency remains in force in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville through Aug. 14.

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; additionally, public motor vehicle (PMV) strikes are possible and could cause temporary transport disruptions. Heightened security is likely, particularly in major cities. Reports indicate that food challenges are emerging in some areas; increased looting, robberies, and price gouging cannot be ruled out.

Officials have allowed domestic 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, albeit reduced, schedule to most domestic destinations. Travelers to Bougainville must enter via Buka Airport (BUA); passengers do not need to quarantine after arriving in the territory if they previously isolated in other areas of the country. 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. Air Niugini has maintained limited services to Singapore, Brisbane, and Cairns, primarily for cargo flights and departing passengers.

The land border with Indonesia remains closed. Officials have deployed more military personnel to the border crossing, though reports of illegal crossings continue. Health officials have deployed to border provinces, where the government is concentrating its testing efforts. Authorities are allowing passenger arrivals at Motukea Port near Port Moresby, as well as ports in Rabaul, Morobe, and Madang, but continue to ban cruise ships and passenger yachts with more than 15 people. Ports remain open for cargo shipments with workers wearing protective gear.

Travel Restrictions
Authorities in Papua New Guinea are requiring arriving travelers to have tested negative for a COVID-19 test within seven days before travel. Passengers are also required to obtain written approval from the National Pandemic Controller's Office. The measures primarily impact Papua New Guinea nationals and permanent residents, as most foreign nationals remain banned from entering 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. Citizens and permanent residents arriving in the country via aircraft must be quarantined for 14 days in Port Moresby at a facility paid for by the government or in a hotel at the traveler's expense. Officials will isolate foreigners in Port Moresby at a hotel at the traveler's expense. 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.

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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