Is PNG prepared for re-opening under the New Normal?

By Dr. Rodney Itaki | View PNGBUZZ.COM Disclaimer link at bottom of article

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Is Papua New Guinea ready for re-opening and handle COVID-19 with the preparation so far?

As the state of emergency in Papua New Guinea (PNG) comes to an end, many are wondering if the country should re-open with the ‘new normal’ or maintain the status quo i.e. extend the emergency period.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, USA recently published guidelines specifically addressing re-opening concerns. The World Health Organization (WHO) also published similar guidelines.

COVID-19 is an infectious disease and although there are still many unknowns about the virus, we know enough to understand how it is spread and what can be done to prevent its transmission to the public. CDC is a very credible source to answer some of the questions people may have. Each organization, business, institution or government department need to develop a re-opening plan and details of how they will implement COVID-19 prevention measures at their respective workplaces.

The greatest challenge will be the public places. Places such as vegetable markets, street vendors, bus stops etc. As much as authorities may try, any COVID-19 prevention measures in public places will fail unless the public is fully engaged and are part of the solution process. Engaging the public early in the process of re-opening planning will ensure public are fully engaged to come up with workable solutions that they see is workable in the big cities and towns around PNG. Around the world countries are slowly re-opening and PNG would soon follow. What is important, in my opinion, is that the national government needs to have a very clear re-opening plan and engage the public early in the re-opening planning process. The national government also needs to inform the people what those re-opening plans are. The paternalistic approach taken by the government will need to change.

There are a handful of countries still COVID-19 free. Most of these countries are in the Pacific. Some of the remote islands of Greece have also been able to maintain their COVID-19 free status and now are wondering how they will keep the infection out because the islands depend on the tourist dollar for their local economy. Many parts of PNG have been naturally sheltered from the pandemic because of their remoteness.

Being remote all of a sudden is a good thing when it comes to a global pandemic – something the world is slowly beginning to realize. So it seems life in rural PNG will go on as usual – with or without COVID-19 but the government now needs to figure out how to slowly start life in urban PNG with the ‘new normal’.

Dr Rodney Itaki, MBBS, BMedSci

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