PNG’s first imported COVID-19 case

Prime Minister James Marape Friday evening confirmed PNG’s first imported case of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In a press briefing at the APEC terminal at Jackson’s International Airport, Marape said the ‘person of interest’ was one of 19 arrivals who were identified, isolated and observed.

“Of all these 19 persons of interest, tests have been run on them simultaneously until the one that came out red. The person who is in red, we are still running further tests on him and if he comes out green then he will be allowed to step out of his current confinement.”

This individual was the “probable imported case” in the Health Minister’s March 18th press statement.

The 45-year-old Caucasian’s first test came back inconclusive. His second test results returned positive, while his third test results will be sent to Melbourne.

“The third test is to ensure that he’s totally cleared of the coronavirus before he’s released into society,” Marape said.

“He’s recovered from any indication we’ve received so far. From what we’ve gathered, he’s recovered fully.

“We were able to pinpoint exactly who he was with up until today and those persons of interest associated with this red-flagged individual have also been found, kept, quarantined, isolated to ensure that they are managed.”

PM Marape said the individual’s first contact was March 13th.

“Today is 20th of March and those that he has been in contact with – I think 10 or so of them – have been monitored, observed and fortunately for us, they’ve found no symptoms of the virus.

“This, in my view, is giving us an opportunity to have one case in which it could make government assess how prepared we are for further cases.

“Let me announce to the country that we mustn’t panic. In as much as we can, we have systems in place to monitor those who are persons of interest.”

PM Marape thanked the mining firms that have banned the fly-in fly-out method.

He said there will be a seven-day travel ban starting this Sunday, the banning of gathering of more than 100 people – which starts immediately – and only the PM and Health Minister Jelta Wong will be the only two contact persons “making formal statements on COVID-19 going into the future”.

“We’d like to have daily briefs on this one so every afternoon, there’s uniform information going out so our people are better informed on what is happening.

“And our citizens, if you’re worried about coronavirus, you keep yourselves dirt-free.”

He emphasised on the need to wash hands regularly, avoid handshakes and close your mouth when coughing.