Port Moresby goes into lockdown as Covid surges
Papua New Guinea's capital will go into lockdown for a two-week period in a bid to contain community transmission of Covid-19.
The Prime Minister James Marape's announcement of the measure followed confirmation on Sunday of 23 more cases of the coronavirus in Port Moresby.
The highest number of cases in a single day that PNG had yet recorded took the country's total number of confirmed infections to date to 62.
Marape said the National Capital District and Port Moresby would be shut down for 14 days, with a curfew declared under the Pandemic Act, with only essential businesses to operate. The curfew is to run between 10pm and 5am.
Schools will close down for 14 days, and no Public Motor Vehicles are allowed to operate except taxi services, with passengers and drivers to wear masks.
Essential workers are also required to wear masks when in public.
Among other measures, there will be an immediate ban on all domestic flights from Port Moresby, for an initial period of 14 days.
The weekend surge in cases came as PNG's Covid-19 response team of health officials ramped up testing - there were 535 tests on Sunday alone.
However to date only around 10,000 tests had been conducted since the pandemic emerged and officials fear the spread of the virus could already be widespread in the capital.
In the last few days officials finally begun to emphasise the wearing of face masks in the capital city, where a cluster had emerged at Port Moresby General Hospital less than two weeks ago.
"Papua New Guinea is not immune from the impact of this awful virus. It does not discriminate. It effects the rich and the poor, the young and the old," Marape said.
"In short, we must do everything we can as a nation to contain it.
"The reality is, that based on reputable modelling, the number of cases in Papua New Guinea is much higher than that which has been recorded."
The prime minister said that based on current numbers, PNG could expect to see a double in the number of cases every two to three days.
Testing in the capital is to be significantly scaled up and targetted, while health authorities are to work closely with Provincial Health Authorities to coordinate testing and other support.
Meanwhile, the Acting Health Secretary Paison Dakulala warned that the main isolation facility in the capital, the Rita Flyn Centre, can only hold up to 72 patients and was expected to reach that capacity soon.
Covid-19 positive patients may be forced to isolate at home.