Central Governor, Robert Agarobe, made this known in a media briefing today straight after the Provincial Executive Council meeting.
When speaking to media at the Central Provincial Government headquarters, Governor Agarobe said he did not come out earlier to make his stance known as he was waiting for the National Government’s response to the COVID-19 situation.
And since a state of emergency has been declared, the provincial executive council has resolved to close off Central Province.
“We’re the most exposed province to this virus because we host the only gateway into this country by air, and that’s the Jackson’s International Airport,” said Agarobe.
“I know a lot of our Central Province people work at the airport, we work in Port Moresby and we will be exposed to this virus on a daily basis. A lot of our people who work in Moresby commute back into the villages.”
The Governor said this is why all roads leading into the province will be closed off by March 25th.
“This doesn’t mean that now we have this 14-day clamp down, all you people from Central Province will rush to go back to the village. That’s the wrong thing to do.
“If you’re in Moresby, you stay put. Stay in your houses and lock down because if you are sick, it’ll show within these three to four days and sevens days, then we can identify you as sick.
“And if you’re really ill then you can call the hotline (1800 200) and they can come and do the checks on you.
“We don’t have enough testing equipment, there’s not enough beds in the hospital.
“My message to everybody in Central Province is that, you don’t want to get sick. If you’re sick, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble. Central Province we do not have the health facilities to deal with this issue,” stressed the Governor.
“We are totally dependent on NCD for this. Rita Flynn courts will be dedicated as the quarantine area for those who catch the virus and are brought in. There’s not enough beds in the Port Moresby General Hospital.
“So to protect our people, we will block all the four roads that lead into the city. Police will be on the road with our team to make sure that no vehicles are on the road; no PMVs are allowed to come into the city.”
This shut down will greatly affect NCD as most of its fresh produce come from Central Province.
“About 70 percent of the population in the city live off the informal market,” stated Agarobe.
“They sell whatever they get from the people of Central Province; they put their markup and from that markup, they make a living in the city.
“We shut this down, this informal sector is going to be hard hit.”
The Governor said he is in dialogue with the NCDC to set aside an exclusive market for his people; not only during the COVID-19 pandemic but permanently.
“And NCD has to decide which market they’re going to give us, whether it’s Boroko market or Koki market. And that has to be handed over permanently to us so that when me and my people come into the city to wholesale food produce, we are coming to our own market.
“We’re not coming to get harassed on the streets like we’ve always been.”