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Sepik boosts border virus surveillance

Wutung entry facility at the border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (RNZ - Johnny Blades)
Wutung entry point at the border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (RNZ - Johnny Blades)

NEWS DESK
| Radio New Zealand | Edited extract

AUCKLAND –Members of parliament in Papua New Guinea's Sepik region say they'll fund bolstered surveillance of the international border with Indonesia.

West Sepik province hosts the main land access point between PNG and Indonesia where coronavirus cases are surging.

Due to coronavirus fears, the border officially closed two months ago, but at around 700 kilometres in length it is difficult to stop illegal border crossing.

Provincial governor Tony Wouwou said since people continue to move across the border, better surveillance and a proper quarantine service is needed.

"We are putting some funds down, with the help of our brothers from East Sepik, to put out some money and we might be able to start as of next week. But awareness is going on,” he said.

“Our health team and the quarantine and police are doing awareness, so that people are not allowed to cross over as yet."

Governor Wouwou said West Sepik MPs can allocate around K3 million from their districts to fund surveillance while awaiting government funding.

He said once proper quarantine services were in place, the authorities may have to consider opening the border post again in order to deal with potential coronavirus cases entering PNG.

He suggested that since it was difficult to stop people coming across from Indonesia's Papua region by boat or through the bush, it may be best to allow controlled movement at the border post at Wutung.

"People are still crossing at night, through bush tracks, from the other side. This is the problem that we have right now," he explained.

"So we have to supply the equipment, and we could open the border so that people can go straight through the border and we can monitor them rather than them crossing over the border at night."

A Sepik MP, opposition leader Belden Namah, has called on the national government to declare a state of emergency to prevent and contain coronavirus and send more security forces to control the border.

Mr Namah said the state of emergency would require a recall of parliament immediately to pass a supplementary budget to fund the national response to the pandemic.

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