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There are holes in the COVID-19 quarantine systems of Papua New Guinea, and “critical functions” are “at risk of collapsing” at its pandemic control center because some workers have not been paid, leaked documents show.

An internal ministerial briefing written last week and accessed by the ABC suggests that approximately 40 temporary workers performing “critical functions” at the National Control Centre for COVID-19 of PNG have not been paid since the start of work five months ago.

“Some staff are threatening to stop work until they are paid, and some staff have already ceased working until they are paid,” it said.

“Critical functions are at risk of collapsing if the staff are not paid immediately.”

Health Minister Jelta Wong of the country blamed bureaucratic problems between the National Health Department and the current National Control Centre for the non-payment of employees.

“We’re working through that now and the secretary has been tasked to ensure that the people working in the frontline get paid and he’s assured me that it will happen,” he told the ABC.

The briefing paper also raises questions about the quarantine system, including that certain passengers are attempting to exclude unnamed government ministers from quarantine, which they do not have the power to do.

It notes that “frequently showing letters issued by government ministers claiming to authorise the passengers to be exempted from quarantine” are seen by international passengers arriving at Jackson Airport in Port Moresby.

“This is causing disputes at the airport as only the controller has the power to issue exemptions,” it said.

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But Mr. Wong claimed that they were doing the right thing after the new quarantine system was clarified to ministers.

“It’s a process that takes about two weeks and it sort of pushes some Ministers to say, ‘oh, we need this done quickly and they need to be in the country’,” he said.

“But once we explain the effects of if these guys come in and there’s community transmission, they say ‘oh, ok, we’ll follow your protocols’.”

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