A Papua New Guinea academic says without enforcement of health measures it will be difficult to contain Covid-19.

PNG’s capital has begun a two-week lockdown after dozens of cases of the virus were confirmed in Port Moresby over recent days.

Yesterday, as the extent of the crisis in Moresby became more clear, the government introduced renewed emergency measures including a night-time curfew and a lockdown during which only essential businesses can operate.

Henry Ivarature from the Australian National University’s Australia Pacific Security College, said that until now, despite government advice that everyone must wear masks in public, there had been little adherence to this and other core health measures.

Dr Ivarature, who had been advocating for a lockdown, said measures must be enforced properly.

“You can issue as many pandemic regulations as you wish, but if you are not enforcing it on the ground, then you are defeating the whole purpose of protecting your citizens from this virus or any other disease that you want to prevent from spreading across the community.”

Dr Ivarature, who is currently in Port Moresby, was interviewed by RNZ Pacific shortly before Prime Minister James Marape announced the two-week lockdown yesterday.

The academic lamented that so far many residents in the capital had not been taking the recommended health measures seriously enough. For instance very few people were wearing masks in public, or maintaining social distancing, he said.

Furthermore, the national habit of chewing betelnut was also continuing unchecked.

“People continue to chew and spit betelnut spittle in public,” he explained.

“As I understand it, Covid hangs in the air through spittle and droplets. Now betelnut is probably the worst thing that can be around for a virus like this. So perhaps the environment for Covid is really ripe.”

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