In response, Minister Jelta Wong said: "My point in the television interview on Tuesday 4 February, 2020, was not to announce that students living in Mainland China are not important, rather it was to highlight the importance of minimising the risk of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV) from entering PNG borders - and that a mitigation process must be followed.
“For example, quarantining people from Mainland China, and in this case Hubei Province of China, for 14 days before anyone enters PNG. These measures are essential as they help to limit exposure of the disease. It is also a measure other countries are implementing.
“I will point out too that I have been leading a whole-of-government approach on the prevention and preparedness of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Part of my active liaison has included evacuating students based in Hubei Province of China to New Zealand, with the very kind support of the New Zealand government and under the leadership of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
“These students are now undergoing 14 days of quarantine before being repatriated to Papua New Guinea.
“I would like to reassure the public that I take very seriously the health of Papua New Guineans based here and overseas. In order to continue to manage the risk, a preparedness plan has been developed and measures are already in place, including mandatory completion of a health screening form to be completed by all inbound passengers in all airlines flying into the country; screening of passengers at Jackson’s International Airport; surveillance and contact tracing; preparation for the transport and quarantine and isolation of suspected cases; training of clinicians and; laboratory testing.”