PORT MORESBY (AFP) – Papua New Guinea shut air and seaports to all foreign travellers coming from Asia on Wednesday, in a desperate bid to prevent the deadly coronavirus from reaching the impoverished Melanesian nation.
In a note to airlines and boat operators, the ministry of immigration said “all citizens originating from the Asian ports will be refused entry to the country effective today”.
The ministry also announced that Papua New Guinea’s only official land border – with Indonesian-controlled Papua province – would be shut from Thursday.
No cases of coronavirus have been reported in Papua New Guinea, but the country’s health service is already buckling under the weight of underfunding and rampant public health problems.
Papua New Guinea is one of only a handful of countries where polio is still endemic, leaving doctors and the United Nations scrambling to revive long-lapsed vaccination programmes.
Papua New Guinea residents returning from Asian countries will be held in quarantine for 14 days.
It will only be possible for anyone to leave or enter the country via Port Moresby’s international airport.
Most flights into the airport are domestic, or from Australia, but officials told AFP arrivals from Chinese cities, Singapore and any other Asian cities would also be affected.
It was not clear how long the measures will be in effect.
“This is a preventative measure taken to ensure the spread of the coronavirus that is rapidly spreading in the world is minimised,” Immigration and Border Security Minister Westly Nukundi Nukundj said.