by Tokana Hasavi – EM TV, Port Moresby
Today, the Health Department signified its Ebola counter initiative through the formation of a National Response Technical Taskforce.
The taskforce includes the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority, air and sea port agencies which include border authorities, among others.
Approximately K1 million has been allocated for the taskforce – the Australian High Commission, the US Embassy and the World Health Organisation will donate as well.
All parties discussed the country’s protective measures and construction of quarantine facilities today in at Aopi Centre, Waigani.
The taskforce is headed by the Health Department’s Dr Sibauk Bieb, executive manager of Public Health.
He confirmed NO Ebola infections or transmission cases in the Pacific region, but PNG is establishing precautionary actions despite the low risk.
Construction of a quarantine facility at the country’s international airport is underway and a traveller declaration will be used at international airports to show health and travel history of travellers entering PNG.
This will of course help PNG identify travellers coming from Ebola-affected countries, but PNG will maintain communication and transfer information with its international neighbours.
WHO representative Dr Pieter Van Maaran emphasised the need for a regional cooperative approach to assist PNG, whilst stressing that the ramifications of PNG’s precautionary measures must also be considered.
Far from Papua New Guinea, the United States of America is currently undergoing serious quarantine and defensive measures to contain the deadly virus on its soil and in West Africa.
But Dr Carlos Williams from the US Embassy in Port Moresby believes that PNG’s establishment of a taskforce is a step in the right direction and credited the government for being proactive.
Dr Williams that explained the assistance from the US will come through a Regional Health Public Emergency Management Plan that has been specifically designed to support Pacific island countries.
Proper training, skills and expertise remain a concern, but with a cooperative approach from all parties involved, plans are underway for the construction of a quarantine facility at Jacksons International Airport, with skills transfer programs for local health workers.
The National Response Technical Taskforce will reconvene in a week.