GRIM PICTURE OF COVID-19 CONTAINMENT FOR PNG AS PM MARAPE DECRIES MISINFORMATION FUELED BY POLITICS

PRIME Minister Hon. James Marape today painted a grim picture of Papua New Guinea’s painful struggle to catch up with the rest of the world in COVID-19 vaccination response which, he said, was due mainly to misinformation that – in many parts – was being fuelled by political quarters.
 
The Prime Minister took a good part of the end of Question Time in Parliament to explain the seriousness of the pandemic and how much importance people worldwide were placing on vaccination and going in for their inoculation – all except Papua New Guineans who have chosen instead to listen to and believe misinformation and conspiracy theories rather than science and be convinced by the rising number of COVID-19 induced deaths.
 
PM Marape was responding to Deputy Opposition Leader and Member for Rabaul Dr. Allan Marat who insisted the Government penalise business owners who are currently applying workplace safety measures relating to the pandemic, which have become known as the ‘No Jab, No Job’ policy.
 
Marat said these companies laying off of Papua New Guinean staff for their refusal to get vaccinated – by invoking their right to freedom of choice – must not be allowed to continue; he wanted the Prime Minister to come clear and spell out that vaccination was not mandatory to make these company owners stop these vaccinations.
 
In responding, PM Marape didn’t isolate the Rabaul MP’s question to only the issue of ‘No Jab, No Job’, but provided the overview of COVID-19 response in the country, which looked serious because of Papua New Guineans refusal to accept the vaccines.
 
He said of all the viruses that have ever come in existence, none has the ‘potency’ or ability of spread as high as COVID-19 which has increased “exponentially” in the country between the time of first index case and now.   
 
“Globally, the number of deaths increased from 5,000 to 5,100,545. In PNG, since our first index case at 23 March 2020 and no deaths, PNG has reported 436 deaths. Ninety percent of these deaths are of people unvaccinated against COVID-19.
 
“Medical doctors will confirm that this is not a joke. COVID-19 is the most life-threatening illness that can be transferred. Displa ino giaman toktok!,” he stressed.
 
Condemning mis-information that have increased fears against vaccination, the Prime Minister called into line people and pockets of the community contributing to these fears.
 
He said: “Mis-information fuelled by political elements is not good for our country.
 
“I want to ask all of us especially those of us educated ones in the way we discuss issues in the public space. We are dealing with the lives of people and also the lives of business.
 
“We play with the most sensitive issue that affects not just one life but the entire life of our country, including its economic life. We must rise up and show responsibility when the national life is at stake!
 
“I have sat with very senior medical professionals, advisors to the Government, who have some 200 years of medical experience combined. They have more knowledge in medicine and science than me. Their advice is to vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate.”
 
“It is true vaccination is not 100 percent defence against COVID-19. But it is there to boost your immune system so that you do not go to the ICU stage; that your immunity is strong so that you remain functional and the virus becomes a common flu for you.”
 
PM Marape pointed to the better acceptance of vaccination in many countries of the world, trying to compare it against PNG figures so Papua New Guineans can make the comparison.
 
He said: “One billion people have already been vaccinated in China; one billion in India; and another billion across the rest of the world. This includes 250 million Americans; 16 million Australians; and 800,000 Fijians vaccinated.
 
“There is so much misinformation - that someone has an agenda to kill people, or that 666 is here, or that the vaccine is not safe.
 
“The vaccines are World Health Organisation-approved. WHO is not a small organisation; it belongs to the United Nations family of Nations. All our medicines and vaccines come through the WHO sanctioned process.
 
For the workplace protocols, the new additional measure now being put in place by the Pandemic Controller will include COVID-19 testing at work place instead of blanket “ no jab no job” stance taken by some work places, “ said PM Marape.