Following the detection of the first Omicron variant case in PNG the Commissioner of Police & Controller of the Papua New Guinea National Pandemic Response David Manning has banned public gatherings of more than 100.
All events or public gatherings of more than 100 people will not be allowed until March 1, 2022.
The ban which has become effective as of Friday, 14 January, 2022, means that spectators will not be allowed if a sport requires 100 team members. Big gatherings have proven to be avenues through which large numbers of people become infected with infectious diseases such as COVID-19.
“March is when we will see increasing numbers in COVID-19 cases as per the modeling from our Epidemiological (EPI) team. We are attempting to control the rate of infections before we go to the election period. We cannot take this lightly. We have so many sad examples from around the globe to learn from. For instance, when the Delta Variant emerged last year, India was in its election campaign period. A total of 400,000 people died during this period in India alone. We only have to refer to India to see what happens when we ignore it,” Mr Manning said
The first case of Omicron in PNG is a 45-year-old expatriate man, who traveled from South Africa. He was diagnosed in Goroka, Eastern Highlands, on 26th of December, 2021, nine days after he left Johannesburg, so it is believed he contracted the virus outside of South Africa because the incubation period of Omicron is less than five days.
Mr Manning said all requests for events of more than 100 persons will not be approved from the 14th of January, 2022, until 28th of February, 2022. Approvals given prior to this new direction are now revoked.
Mr Manning said, “The gatherings include social events such as clubbing/bar activities, dances, diners, parties, sporting competitions and religious activities such as church and fellowships.
“Those affected must now liaise with the Niupela Pasin team at the National Control Centre for rescheduling of events.”
The Controller said those who want to hold gatherings or events with participants numbering from 20 to 100 must seek approval from the NCC.
Under the same direction, Mr Manning has urged all organisations whether private or public, to liaise with the Niupela Pasin team to formulate standard operating procedures for COVID-19 workplace safety and operations within their organisations.
He said while the severity of Omicron variant is lower than Delta, it spreads faster and therefore there are more people getting sick with Omicron than with the original COVID-19 and other variants, putting a lot of stress on health resources in affected countries such as Australia.
“We have to do everything we can to ensure this variant does not spread like wildfire in this country because PNG does not have the capacity in the health system to respond favourably,” Mr Manning said.
The Controller also urged the public to be responsible and adhere to the COVID-19 protocols to protect themselves, their loved ones and others from this disease.
“Prevention is better than cure, and one way is to get yourself vaccinated. Our statistics currently shows that we have 229,459 people in this country who are fully vaccinated and those that have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is 290,946. This shows that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe.
“There is a high probability that Omicron is in the country and transmitting, but due to mild presentation of the variant it may be going undetected,” Mr Manning said.
The first case of Omicron was detected in South Africa on 24 November, 2021, and was declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a Variant of Concern on 27 November, 2021. It is now detected in close to 30 countries including Australia.
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