| Bee’s Odyssey
AUCKLAND - By now nearly everyone with access to social media in Papua New Guinea is aware of the changes to air travel from overseas.
I get why overseas travel into PNG has to be tightened – the Delta variant of Covid-19 is spreading like wildfire and needs to be stopped.
However, I feel that special considerations should be given to students returning home after completing of studies overseas.
Each country has its own vaccination schedule and protocol for who is eligible.
From what I am seeing in New Zealand, frontline workers and the elderly area priority for getting vaccinated.
As non-citizens, I do not see us being on top of the list. This effectively means that Papua New Guineans overseas are stuck in a limbo.
Students on scholarships are tied to visa conditions for the duration of their education.
Those on the same scholarship as I have two weeks after we submit our thesis or report, or complete our last assessment, to get on a plane home.
The visa expires when this two weeks is over.
Even if we are able to get vaccinated, there must be at least three weeks before the first and second dose.
I envisage tis constraint is already causing stress and anxiety for many people who are completing their studies around this time.
As for 21 days quarantine at our own expense upon arrival in PNG, as a scholar I can tell you the support we get is just enough to pay rent and buy food and other necessities.
There is no way students can easily pay for 21 days of quarantine even if our sponsors can pay half the cost.
Is there no other way the PNG government can help its citizens who will contribute greatly to our country when we return?
I have some suggestions to address these issues – and I hope the authorities will consider them and help Papua New Guineans overseas.
Remove the vaccination certificate as a criterion for PNG students purchasing a ticket to return home.
Instead, the 21 day quarantine can be imposed with mandatory Covid-19 testing at least three times during the 21 days to ensure a negative result on all tests before being allowed home.
Subsidise the 21 day quarantine for PNG students returning home. As I mentioned, these students will be contributing to PNG with the knowledge and skills they have gained.
They would definitely appreciate the extra financial burden being taken off them and their families through part subsidisation of quarantine fees.
It is my hope that the one-size-fit-all policy be reconsidered in situations like I’ve highlighted.
Thinking of all fellow scholars overseas who will be travelling home shortly.
I can imagine how stressful these past few days and the next coming weeks will be for your all.