Report in October 2021

Covid-19 Situation in Papua New Guinea

Viola Kwa, MBBS, MMed (General Pathology)
Technical advisor & Country Coordinator, Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative,
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Covid-19 cases in Papua New Guinea on 4th October 2021

  1. a) Total confirmed cases: 21,032
  2. b) Newly confirmed cases on that day: 151
  3. c) Active cases on that date: 2,166
  4. d) Critical cases in ICU (Or cases needing oxygen ventilation, if known): 7 on the website but I think there is more on the ground
  5. e) Total death cases: 234

Problems facing our country now amid this pandemic

1) Significantly low vaccination rate. Only 2.5% of the population is fully vaccinated.
There are a number of reasons for this;

  • Lack of access to COVID-19 vaccines
  • Lack of awareness about the need for COVID-19 vaccine
  • Fears about the COVID-19 vaccine amongst the general population and also among health workers

2) Closure of major provincial hospitals due to high burden of COVID-19 cases, lack of oxygen

3) Closure of other clinical specialist clinics that provide care to those

  • with pre-existing co-morbidities like Hypertension, Diabetes, Heart disease,
  • that have had surgery and need follow-up
  • needing eye and ENT services

A number of measures have been taken to control Covid-19 spread.

  1. 1) National Covid-19 control center was established
  2. 2) A National Pandemic Act was enacted
  3. 3) The National government released funds to every district for COVID-19 preparation and support
  4. 4) A nationwide lockdown for 2 weeks last year
  5. 5) Provincial lockdowns for provinces with high numbers of cases mainly this year
  6. 6) Restricted sale of alcohol, alcohol ban in major towns and cities
  7. 7) “Niupela pasin” (observing social distancing, wearing a mask at all times outside) however these are not strictly observed
  8. 8) International borders closed for certain periods

It is still difficult to assess whether the countermeasures taken been effective in controlling the spread of the disease.

The government does not directly give any financial help.

There were lockdown in our country.

Fines and imprisonment are meted out to those who flouted the lockdown.

Health workers, police, military and shop keepers were allowed to carry on with their activities during the lockdown.

The reaction of the ordinary citizen to the lockdown was that many were afraid of COVID-19 so they adhered to the lockdown rules.

Before the lockdown, there was frenzy buying of rice, flour, canned fish, oil, canned meat, sanitizers, tissue wipes, toilet paper and soap.

For those who failed to observe the rules of the new normal, such as wearing mask at shopping centers or observing social distancing, they were disallowed entry to all public areas of shopping.

Diagnostics methods being used in our country are Rapid Antigen Detection Test (RDT) and GeneXpert (PCR).

One has to pay for the PCR testing or antigen testing at private labs but not for those tests done at public facilities. The test cost less than 500 PGK (About US$ 142).

Delta variant is currently in a few of our provinces.

Vaccination program has been going on quite slowly among the people, even among health workers.

Only 2.5% of the population are fully vaccinated as of the end of September 2021.

The types of vaccines being administered to the population in Papua New Guinea are Sinopharm, Astrazeneca and Johnson and Johnson

The people do not need to pay for the vaccination.

Presently, there are no traditional medicine being used to prevent or as a drug in therapy against the Covid-19.

The government also has not approved any traditional medicine for use against Covid-19.

There is controversy on the use of Ivermectin in Papua New Guinea.

Pandemic has affected schools. Many children are repeating grades this year due to the disruption caused by lockdown and absence of teachers and students due to fear of Covid-19.

Due to the pandemic many people lost their jobs due to the closure of hotels, businesses scaled back their staff numbers. This affected many families and many have no formal income. Many people were hungry during the lockdown. So many people depend on the informal sector for income and could not make money during the lockdown.

Fig.1. Family waiting to be vaccinated
Fig. 2. Setup of vaccination station