Anti-COVID-19 Vaccine Protests Erupt in Papua New Guinea

By Victoria Kelly-Clark
Victoria Kelly-Clark
Victoria Kelly-Clark
November 1, 2021 Updated: November 2, 2021

Authorities in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have banned people from protesting against COVID-19 vaccinations after organisers scheduled a peaceful march around Port Moresby on Tuesday.

Pandemic Controller and Commissioner of Police David Manning warned the protest organisers that any gathering of more than 20 people was illegal and peaceful protests were no exception, Post Courier reported.

“This march is therefore illegal and will not be allowed to go ahead,” Manning said. “Organisers of the march will be identified and dealt with.”

Manning also appealed to Papuans to work with the authorities to stop the spread of the CCP virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease.

“I appeal to our citizens to please work with us. We are in difficult times and need your support,” he said. “We are not the enemy; COVID-19 is.”

The ban comes after police in PNG broke up an anti-COVID-19 vaccination protest in the country’s second-largest city, Lae, on Oct. 29.

The protest, which saw hundreds of people holding placards and banners, forced the closure of shops, schools, and banks.

The Lae police also reported that protestors stoned three cars, but no police officers were injured, media service LOOP reported.

“The only incident we had was when they stoned a police vehicle—but the vehicle is okay—and two civilian cars,” said Lae Metropolitan Police Superintendent Chris Kunyanban.

Kunyanban said he believed the protests were a result of misinformation around the vaccines. He warned that if authorities did not listen to the concerns of Papuans, there would be more protests in the future.

“We must create an avenue where appropriate authorities can listen to their concerns because if we don’t, similar situations are going to occur,” he said.

Hesitancy around the COVID-19 vaccines and “no jab, no job” policies are also said to be the cause of an attack on health workers in Lae on Oct. 18.

The incident, which was caught on camera, saw health workers who were operating a vaccination clinic attacked with stones and sticks, The Guardian reported.

“The situation was so tense. The public started throwing stones and running towards the vaccination team with sticks, iron rods, and stones,” said bystander Emmanuel Saem Jr.

No injuries were reported from the incident.

At present, around two percent of PNG’s adult population is vaccinated against COVID-19.

Health authorities view this as dire given the surging number of COVID-19 cases in the country, which is currently in the midst of a severe outbreak of the Delta strain of the novel coronavirus.

“We’re at the moment barely managing with the existing load. There are surges occurring in all the major centres,” said Dr. Gary Nou, head of the emergency medical team at the National Control Centre for COVID-19, told the ABC.

“Patients are lying everywhere. The situation is dire,” Nou said.

The outbreak has forced Pandemic Controller Manning to approve a mass burial of 200 out of the 300 bodies in the Port Moresby city morgue after it was pushed to breaking point.