PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare says the National Government has stepped up COVID-19 operations at the western border.
Speaking during his special nation-wide address on Monday this week, the Prime Minister said in light of the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in Bougainville, the Ministry of Health will now deploy four staff to join the police, immigration and customs on a monthly rotation basis as part of the joint border operations.
“In the first 14 days of March 2021, PNG has already recorded 808 new cases of COVID-19. The number of COVID-19 cases in Bougainville had also increased to around 68 last week and could be even more now,” he said.
Prime Minister Sogavare said this new deployment will ensure the health team travels with police and other border agencies to increase patrols along the border, and importantly to undertake awareness in all villages along the border zone.
The Prime Minister said the health deployment team will not be based in clinics. They will be part of the joint ‘command and control’ at the Kulitanai police base.
“We are also stepping up emergency infrastructure at the border zone to increase accommodation, isolation, and quarantine facilities. We are also working to ensure our logistics, operational support, and supply chains are well maintained,” he said.
Prime Minister Sogavare has also reached out to the country’s development partners to support the Government to finance fuel depots at Taro and Kulitanai, and to support infrastructure facilities urgently required at the western border.
The Prime Minister said there is also an urgent need to step up the ‘communication capability’ at the border zone.
He said there are many communication black holes that need to be urgently addressed.
“I ask Solomon Telekom to expedite the implementation of the two telecommunication towers that the Government of Australia had committed to fund at Shortland Islands as soon as possible,” he said.