July 27, 2020 / 6:20 AM / 13 days ago

Papua New Guinea toughens travel curbs as coronavirus cases rise

MELBOURNE, July 27 (Reuters) - Papua New Guinea halted entry for travellers from Monday, except those arriving by air, as it tightens curbs against coronavirus infections that have more than doubled over the past week.

The Pacific nation, which had escaped the infection levels of its neighbours since the crisis escalated in March, has recorded fresh cases every day for the past week, says data analysis firm World Healthometer.

It had 23 new virus cases on Sunday, up from just eight infections 10 days ago.

"These now bring the total to 62 confirmed cases of COVID-19 patients in the country, an increase of 49 in just 10 days," Dr Paison Dakulala, deputy chief of the National Pandemic Response team, said in a statement.

In response, authorities tightened regulations, from border measures to quarantine and ordered the use of masks indoors in the capital, the head of emergency services said.

"Traditional border crossing arrangements are hereby suspended," David Manning, who is also the police chief, said in a statement distributed on Monday but dated July 23.

PNG has banned such border travel for those from Australia, Indonesia, the federated states of Micronesia and the Solomon Islands.

Inbound passengers must show evidence of a negative virus test in the seven days prior to boarding an aeroplane and must isolate themselves for 14 days on arrival.

Energy firms Exxon Mobil and Oil Search said the outbreak had not affected operations and they had donated safety equipment and personal protective gear.

Australian gold producer Newcrest Mining, one of about a dozen organisations authorised to perform virus tests, added that it had not recorded any cases among staff and had also donated medical safety gear.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)

Reporting by Melanie Burton and Sonali Paul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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