Australia restricts travel to Papua New Guinea

Image: Ok Tedi Mining.

Australia’s mining industry is bracing for travel interruptions after Prime Minister Scott Morrison barred fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers from travelling to and from Papua New Guinea.

The country is facing a surge in COVID-19 infections.

Morrison said Australia would be suspending all outbound travel exemptions by Australians to Papua New Guinea, except for essential and critical workers, including humanitarian and medevac-related activity.

“This will include no general FIFO work. If you’re there, you stay. If you’re here, you stay,” he said.

“We cannot risk people going into those areas and back to Australia.”

The FIFO ban comes after Papua New Guinea miner Ok Tedi Mining enforced a two-week ban on its international charter flights last week due to its personnel testing positive for COVID-19 during hotel quarantine in Cairns.

The company’s quarantined workers have since been released after completing isolation.

“We take the wellbeing of our personnel very seriously as well as our responsibility to the Australian community in relation to our FIFO travel,” OK Tedi stated on Tuesday.

“The company continues to review the effectiveness of our control measures and adjust them based on World Health Organisation, PNG (Papua New Guinea) and Australian best practice advice.

“We would like to recognise and thank the work of the Queensland Police and Queensland Health for the extraordinary care provided to our personnel.”

Australia has agreed to send 8000 COVID-19 vaccines to Papua New Guinea to vaccinate its health workers against the growing case number, with Morrison to provide another million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for Papua New Guinea.

The country will also provide one million surgical masks, 200,000 respirator masks, 100,000 gowns, 100,000 goggles, 100,000 pairs of gloves, 100,000 bottles of sanitiser, 20,000 face shields and 200 ventilators to Papua New Guinea.

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