The PNG COVID-19 National Pandemic Response Controller and Police Commissioner David Manning, has announced that following broad consultation with churches, community organisations and businesses, a number of COVID-19 Measures are now being further eased.
Commissioner Manning said central to the decision to further enable Church congregations to expand, and then the private sector to have greater community participation, is the reassurance that all partners will do everything they can to keep people safe while COVID-19 is threatening further spread around the country.
The most important announcement today are revisions under Control Measure Number 9 relating to ‘Business and Social Measures’ with the re-opening of larger church congregations around the country so people can worship as communities.
Commissioner Manning said, “Working with the Council of Churches and faith groups around the country, we are all confident that by increasing the number of people who can pray together, that parishioners will be sure to keep each other safe and practice safe physical distancing.
“Our Christian faith is the cornerstone of PNG society and for communities around our country. We are making gains in the current battle against COVID-19, but we are a long way from winning the war, so we must all remain vigilant.
“From May 13 the size of congregations will be able to increase to 100 alongside everyone practicing safe physical distancing.
“The priority for relaxing measures is enabling our people to return to our Churches and places of worship, and congregations to meet and give thanks for the blessings we have in our daily lives.
“Church leaders are adamant in their desire to share the responsibility of keeping congregations safe alongside the Government’s COVID-19 Pandemic response efforts.”
Commissioner Manning said increasing the size of Church congregations leads the way for the relaxing of other measures to enable greater social interaction with safe practices in the hospitality and gaming sectors.
“With the re-opening of congregations in our houses of worship as the priority, there will be other relaxation of measures, and these will enable greater social engagement so long as physical distancing is maintained.
“We must balance public safety concerns while also working to ensure that there is flexibility so that business activity can increase, and more jobs can be created.
“After consultation with businesses in the hospitality sector, it has been agreed that conditions are right to reopen certain venues so long as these businesses and their industry associations take their full share of responsibility in maintaining public safety.
“As of Monday May 17, the following businesses will be able to re-open with eased restrictions to enable patrons to engage in social gatherings of limited size while minimising the risk of virus spread.
“This includes bars that also have a connected restaurant, as well as bottle shops and gambling venues, but with the warning that if business operators fail to protect their patrons and maintain public safety, individual venues will be held to account and these restrictions are open to being reversed.
“I hope the recent closure of these venues has also provided an opportunity for patrons to reflect and consider their responsibilities to the community.
“There can be no excuse for behavioural excess in these venues, and it is hoped that patrons will have respect for not only themselves, but their families in the way they behave and spend their hard-earned money.
“Excesses in consumption and reckless behaviour not only cause social problems, but can also lead to the further spread of COVID-19 in local communities.
“Individual businesses have a responsibility to inform their patrons of physical distancing requirements.
“Overarching bodies including the National Gaming and Control Board have to immediately prepare all of the awareness materials that they must deliver to venues.
“The warning is clear, that if businesses and organizations such as the NGCB, do not communicate with their public outlets and their patrons, and if recklessness places lives at risk, these venues will be shut down.”
Commissioner Manning said the Government was moving forward with increased partnership with business and agencies who have embraced the opportunity for increasing self-monitoring of Niupela Pasin measures.