COVID-19 pandemic in Papua New Guinea
|COVID-19 pandemic in Papua New Guinea|
|Location||Papua New Guinea|
|First outbreak||Wuhan, Hubei, China|
|Arrival date||20 March 2020|
|Vaccinations||2.1% (315,271) with at least one dose|
|PNG Government Official COVID-19 Website|
The COVID-19 pandemic in Papua New Guinea is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The virus was confirmed to have reached Papua New Guinea on 20 March 2020. On 4 May 2020, Papua New Guinea was declared COVID-19 free. However, on 20 June, the government confirmed another case of COVID-19, meaning that the disease was present again within the country.
Until early 2021, the country managed to stave off a major COVID-19 outbreak, with only 1,275 cases reported at the end of February according to Johns Hopkins University. In March cases tripled, with Prime Minister James Marape speaking of "rampant community transmission". By early May, the number of hospitalizations in the capital Port Moresby stabilized, but delays in receiving test results from regional areas were a concern. In mid May, as the reasons for the apparent easing of the pandemic situation remained uncertain, discrepancies between government figures and higher ones from the provinces led to concerns that hundreds of COVID-19 cases had been missed in the national tally.
As of October 21, 2021 Papua New Guinea has a total of 32,378 cumulative cases, 415 deaths, and 30,269 recoveries.
On 12 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, which was reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019.
The pandemic posed a major strain on the health system in Papua New Guinea, which has been described by experts as poor. The presence of malaria, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and other illnesses was seen by experts as compounding the impact of the pandemic. In April 2020, the country had only about 500 doctors, less than 4,000 nurses, below 3,000 community health workers, and about 5,000 bed spaces in hospitals. Health care access was difficult for rural and village communities. During the pandemic, the country relied extensively on help from abroad, including the deployment of medical personnel, coronavirus testing kits, personal protective equipment, and from 2021, vaccines. As of April 2021, the country was unable to conduct mass testing, leading health officials to believe that the reported infection numbers were likely vastly underestimating the scale of the outbreak. During the wave of cases in the first half of 2021, the demographics of the country – dominated by the very young, who were less likely to require intensive care when infected with the coronavirus – were regarded as having prevented a worse situation.
On 5 April, the Queen of Papua New Guinea addressed the Commonwealth in a televised broadcast, in which she asked people to "take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return". She added, "we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again".
On 7 April, Papua New Guinea confirmed its second case of COVID-19.
On 16 April, the PNG government confirmed five new COVID-19 cases.
On 23 April, an elderly woman of age 45 from Eastern Highlands Province was confirmed to be infected. The tally now stands at 8 cases in Papua New Guinea.
On 4 May, acting Health Secretary Dr Paison Dakulala reported that all known cases have recovered, but stresses that they don't know what they are fighting. 2,400 tests have been carried out with the bulk in Port Moresby.
On 20 June, the PNG government confirmed its ninth COVID-19 case.
On 26 June, the PNG government confirmed its eleventh COVID-19 case.
On 16 July, PNG confirmed four new cases of COVID-19; they are staff from the main laboratory that tests for the virus.
On 18 July, PNG confirmed its 16th case of COVID-19.
On 20 July, PNG confirmed two new cases of COVID-19.
On 21 July, PNG confirmed eight new cases of COVID-19.
On 22 July, PNG confirmed three new cases of COVID-19.
On 23 July, PNG confirmed one new case of COVID-19.
On 24 July, PNG confirmed its 32nd case of COVID-19.
On 25 July, PNG confirmed seven new cases of COVID-19.
On 26 July, PNG recorded its highest number of positive COVID-19 cases in a day, 23 new cases.
On 27 July, PNG recorded its first death.
On 28 July, PNG recorded its second death and a new case.
On 29 July, PNG recorded four new cases.
On 30 July, PNG recorded five new cases.
On 1 August, PNG recorded 19 new cases.
On 2 August, PNG recorded another 19 new cases.
On 3 August, PNG recorded a new case.
On 10 August, Prime Minister James Marape announced that the two-week lockdown of Port Moresby, which expired the following day, would not be extended in spite of rising case numbers, saying that as per advice from specialist teams, a strategy of "living with the virus" was preferable to "drastic measures". Governor of Port Moresby Powes Parkop supported the decision, pointing to the present situation of economic crisis and the increased risks due to the lockdown in particular for students, who were often living in crowded conditions inferior to those in schools.
On 5 September, PNG reported eight new cases. As of early September, 12 of the country's 22 provinces have reported positive cases. The death toll remains five and the total number of recovered remains 232. There are 240 tests pending laboratory result.
On 12 September, PNG confirmed its sixth death.
According to a 14 December situation report issued jointly by the PNG National Department of Health and the WHO, 44 new cases were reported across the country in the period from 7 to 13 December. Of these cases, 35 were from West New Britain, where two recent clusters of cases had developed in the preceding three weeks. The report warned that testing rates in all provinces had remained "critically low", and that there were "large significant delays in receiving test results". It also warned that a rise in cases over the upcoming holiday period was to be expected.
Due to rising case numbers, and the isolation wards at Port Moresby Hospital and the nearby Gerehu Hospital both being full, a temporary COVID-19 field hospital at a local sporting facility in the city was reopened. According to a ministerial briefing obtained by the ABC, "critical functions" at the National Control Centre for COVID-19 were endangered by about 40 staff members not having been paid for five months.
Amid a worsening of the outbreak with over 1,400 active cases, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on 17 March that Australia would send 8,000 vaccine doses to PNG the following week, and that it would request a further one million doses from AstraZeneca and European authorities to be diverted to the country. Refugee advocates called on the Australian government to return the refugees and asylum seekers who had remained in PNG after the closure of the Manus Island facility in 2019; six of them had tested positive in the preceding two weeks. On 23 March tougher anti-pandemic measures took effect, with internal border controls being tightened, personal movement restricted, and mask wearing made mandatory.
On 30 March, Prime Minister James Marape, health workers, senior politicians and elected officials were among the first to be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Marape said on the occasion that he had decided to be among the first to be vaccinated to demonstrate that the vaccine was safe.
On 21 April, the total number of confirmed cases in the country passed 10,000. Pandemic response controller David Manning spoke of a "critical stage" in combating the outbreak and urged citizens to comply with pandemic control measures.
A national rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine was officially opended by Prime Minister Marape on 4 May. More than 130,000 doses from the COVAX program would be distributed across the country, targeting 3 per cent of the population identified as frontline workers. The take-up for 8,000 doses that had previously been delivered by Australia had been sluggish, with less than half of the doses administered in Port Moresby. Misinformation from social media, resulting in mistrust of the vaccine, was identified by the Lowy Institute as one of the key reasons for the vaccine hesitancy.
In early July, PNG opened its vaccination program to all persons over 18 years. This occurred as the country faced considerable vaccine hesitancy, with only just under 55,000 having received a vaccination, and among fears that 70,000 donated doses would have to be discarded. A monitoring by Caritas of COVID-19 awareness programs in the country found that rural communities, largely relying on word of mouth rather than the media, were vulnerable to misinformation regarding the virus. Due to concerns over the Delta variant, the government closed its international borders to all except the vaccinated.
In a 2 July article, the China state media outlet Global Times alleged that "Australian consultants" in PNG had been "obstructing" the emergency use authorisation of Chinese vaccines. A 5 July statement by foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin expressed concern over what he called "irresponsible behaviour" by Australia in the country. On 6 July during a trip to PNG and on 9 July, the Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja rejected the accusations.
The Government of Papua New Guinea banned all travellers from Asian countries and closed its border with Indonesia, taking effect from 30 January. On 16 April, due to additional confirmed cases in the National Capital District (NCD) and the Western Province, the Emergency Controller issued National Emergency Order No. 16, effectively locking down the NCD. The order established an 8 pm to 6 am curfew, prohibited most public gatherings, limited groups to four people, banned public transportation, and suspended alcohol and Betel nut sales. The order also prohibits domestic air travel and closes public venues such as gambling halls, night clubs, sports and sports clubs, and religious services.
On 3 May, the curfew for the National Capital District and Central Province was lifted, alcohol restrictions have been lifted. Gatherings remain banned, social distancing measures have to be enforced, and washing hands before entering church services is mandatory.
On 5 May, the schools reopened; however, some schools required face masks and others have sent their students back again.
Confirmed new cases per day
Confirmed deaths per day
Cases by province
|National Capital District||9,391||102||364,125||2,579.06|
|East New Britain Province||2,208||28||328,369||672.41|
|West New Britain Province||1227||6||264,264||464.31|
|Autonomous Region of Bougainville||921||17||249,358||369.35|||
|Eastern Highlands Province||2,156||90||579,825||371.84|
|New Ireland Province||825||11||194,067||425.11|
|Southern Highlands Province||1,039||53||510,245||203.63|
|Western Highlands Province||2,724||79||362,580||7,512.82|
|Updated 31 December 2021|
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