Papua New Guinea Health Minister Jelta Wong has advised that a charter flight from India was denied entry into PNG due to concerns over the high possibility of passengers carrying the highly contagious Delta mutation of COVID-19.
He said correct procedures were not followed and the Government will continue protecting PNG from the escalating COVID-19 risk.
“The spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta mutation is a serious threat to PNG and countries around the world,” Wong said.
“Our government cannot run the unacceptable risk of a large COVID-19 Delta mutation spread that would force the lockdown of businesses, government offices and schools.”
He said as a developing country, PNG has great empathy for the people of India but must take every precaution to try and block the entry of the Delta mutation.
“There are currently more than half a million known and active COVID-19 infections in India, with 50,000 new cases still being detected each day, but the real number is likely much higher,” Wong said.
“The predominant COVID-19 mutation in India is the Delta strain, and it is many times deadlier than the original COVID-19 strain.
“This COVID-19 mutation rips through communities at high speed and causes a much greater rate of hospitalisation for people who become infected.
“We have all seen the terrible loss of life in India over recent weeks and the sight of thousands of people losing their lives when their hospital system was overwhelmed.
“In Australia, we have seen states and territories forced into lockdown over the past few days because of the COVID-19 Delta variant escaping hotel quarantine.
“So it would be irresponsible for our government to allow this charter flight to enter PNG from one of the largest COVID-19 hotspots in the world.”
The Minister said the only true way for PNG and other countries to open up and get back to normal is through vaccination.
“During this current Delta strain spread in Australia, we have seen the difference between having the vaccine and not having the vaccine.
“In one case, at a gathering of 30 people, there were 24 unvaccinated people who all caught COVID-19, and there were six vaccinated people who did not catch COVID-19.
“The facts are clear and indisputable.
“When enough people are vaccinated, the risk of infection is reduced significantly, so we appeal to our people to take the vaccine when it is available to them.
“Taking the vaccine is a life and death decision, so I ask everyone to talk with your families and make them safe by taking the vaccine.
“This is your free choice and it is one of the most important decisions you might ever make.”
Wong said the Government will continue to assess the situation in India.
“The government will consider a future application for a charter flight, which will be based on health advice, and proper procedures are followed in making the application,” he said.
“Unfortunately, correct procedures were not followed to seek permission for this charter flight, which will cause disappointment for people who had been incorrectly told the flight had been arranged.
“Our thoughts and our prayers are with the people of India as they fight to overcome this terrible and highly destructive COVID-19 Delta strain” said Wong.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS