Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and the National Executive Council (NEC) have received a briefing from the Minister for Health Michael Malabag MP, on preparations to reduce the potential of the Ebola virus reaching Papua New Guinea, as well as measures being implemented to deal with a patient in the unlikely scenario that a case was to become present.
"Health Minister Malabag made it very clear that there are no reported cases of Ebola in Papua New Guinea, and the likelihood of Ebola being imported into the nation is very low," O'Neill noted following the briefing.
"Considering that the World Health Organisation has declared Ebola a public health emergency of international concern, Papua New Guinea has taken heed of this warning and is implementing measures that meet and surpass global standards.
"A National Ebola Taskforce has been established and is working closely with border protection agencies including immigration, health facilities and international partners to ensure procedures are in place to prevent Ebola entering our country.
"In the extremely unlikely situation that a person with symptoms did arrive, that person would be moved to an isolation unit at the port of entry. Immediate care would be provided to test for the virus and a management plan implemented to deal with a potential infection.
"Temporary isolation tents are being deployed to international entry points, and the provision of essential Personal Protection Equipment is included with these facilities.
"Training of healthcare workers is continuing to ensure a professional response if a potential case is detected.
"A permanent isolation unit that meets WHO standards for biohazard level 4 facility standards is also being established in Port Moresby to deal with potential Ebola and future infectious diseases threats.
"I thank the Minister for Health and his Department, as well as all participants on the National Ebola Taskforce for their efforts to date. While the potential of Ebola appearing in our country is low, we have to be vigilant and well prepared."
The Prime Minister called on the media, and in particular social media users, to be responsible in discussion of Ebola and not cause undue distress.
"We have seen two instances in Queensland recently where people with a heightened temperature went into isolation as a precaution while they were tested.
"Unfortunately some mainstream and social media reporting worried people in Papua New Guinea when there was zero risk to our people from these instances.
"We just need commentators to be responsible and report accurately on this important community health issue."
Ebola – National Preparedness and Response Planning
· A National Ebola Taskforce has been established and is meeting regularly to consider issues relating to current global concerns relating to the Ebola virus.
· The Taskforce comprises representatives from border protection agencies of government, National Airport Corporation Ltd (NAC), PNG Ports Ltd, NAQIA National Disaster Centre, the media, Air Niugini, NCD Health Services, City Hall, Defence Force, Australian Government, US Government, and the World Health Organisation
· The Taskforce and the National Department of Health (NDoH) and the Citizenship and Immigration Services Authority (CISA) are undertaking immediate preparedness activities with the support of the Australian Government, World Health Organisation, and other partners, including:
- Training of flight crews to identify and respond to passengers that may be showing symptoms of Ebola.
- Establishment of isolation centres at ports to quarantine incoming passengers showing symptoms of Ebola.
- Training of health workers in conjunction with the World Health Organisation at PMGH with further training to be conducted for all NCD health workers.
- More clinical and quarantine officers will be identified and trained for surveillance at the airport and seaport.
- Stringent screening of applications for visas for entry into PNG by foreign nationals introduced by CISA at PNG foreign missions and posts.
• There is currently an intense transmission of Ebola Virus Disease (Ebola) in three (3) countries in West Africa, namely Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.
• There is also a localised transmission of Ebola in five (5) other countries, namely, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Spain, and United States of America (USA).
• Ebola is not an airborne virus as was the case with SARs in 2003, Ebola transmission is only through direct contact through body fluids. This makes the virus significantly more open to containment than the SARs virus.