Healthcare. Papua New Guinea press review

In Papua New Guinea, three new cases of COVID-19 were reported, the ninth, tenth and eleventh respectively.
A ninth case was recorded in a 44-year-old member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Initially, Australian Officer was in quarantine at the Rita Flynn (Boroko, Port Moresby) as local authorities concentrated on contact tracing. According to Acting Health Secretary Dr. Paison Dakulala, the 44-year-old ADF member arrived in Papua New Guinea in January 2020 and was deployed to a border province where he might have picked up the virus. Mr. Dakulala says contract tracing is still ongoing, with the first 28 samples collected over the weekend coming back negative. He says the Australian soldier also moved around in Port Moresby and the rapid response team is working on contact tracing all those who came into contact with him. He says prevention is better than cure, and people must practice social distancing and apply the basic hygiene practices. The Acting Health Secretary noted that anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms, fevers, coughs, sore throats, body aches or difficulty breathing must stay at home and immediately call the toll free line 1800-200. [1-2]

The Acting Health Secretary Dr. Paison Dakulala also marked that the 44-year-old fell ill on the 5th of June 2020 and reported his situation through the hotline number on the 9th of June 2020. After a week in observation, he did not recover so tests were conducted. The first test was done on the 17th of June 2020 (Wednesday) and the result received on the 19th of June 2020 (Friday), from Brisbane. Australia. Medical experts have strongly urged citizens to maintain the hygiene practices and social distancing protocols. [3-4]

PNG Defence Minister Saki Soloma wished Australian officer a speedy recovery and also noted that PNGDF has put in place measures to reduce the possible further spread of COVID-19: «Firstly, there is now controlled access to Murray Barracks [Port Moresby] with only authorized personnel and their families permitted to enter […] there has also been a rigorous contact tracing program put in place to ensure we know where the patient may have contracted the virus and who he had been in contact with before going into isolation,» Mr. Soloma said. [5-6]

The 10th case of COVID-19 was confirmed in 27-year-old PNGDF employee from PNG Defence Forces, who works at the Murray Barracks in Port Moresby. Her positive COVID-19 test result was received from the Queensland Health Laboratory in Brisbane, Australia. The rapid response team of the National Capital District (NCD) is now deployed to conduct case investigation and contact tracing, in collaboration with the teams from the National Department of Health (NDOH), PNG Defense Force, the Australian Defense Force and the World Health Organization (WHO).
As stated Police Commissioner and State COVID-19 Controller David Manning, «the identification of this case provides evidence of local transmission in Port Moresby and the risk is very high that more cases may be identified in the coming days […] Putting this outbreak in control will be our shared responsibility. I urge people to stop from converging and mass gathering, » Mr. Manning said.

Mr. Manning also elaborated on measures to counter the spread of COVID-19:
• Anyone who has flu-like symptoms must stay at home and stay away from others;
• Physical distancing of at least 1-meter must be adhered to in all public places and the wearing of masks;
• All business establishments and offices must have hand washing facilities and make available hand sanitizers for visitors;
• Greet each other with a simple smile, a nod or a wave;
• Avoid physical contact;
• Temperature checks must be consistently imposed and deny entry to those with COVID-19 symptoms.

«I emphasize once again, anyone who is experiencing flu-like symptoms, fevers, coughs, sore throats, body aches or difficulty breathing must stay at home and immediately call our toll free line 1800 200,» Mr. Manning added. David Manning also said that the Australian Defence Force soldier with COVID-19 was scheduled to return home earlier this week, however, since testing positive he was directed to remain in quarantine until he was fit to travel. [7-9]

The 11th case of COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea was also recorded at the Murray Barracks in Port Moresby, during a mass testing of PNGDF troops. The State of Emergency declared in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic ended in early June 2020, but the COVID-19 National Operational Centre continues to function. To date, there have been no COVID-19 cases in PNG for almost two months. [10]

In turn, the National Operation Centre’s medical and scientific advisory committee says the immunity of Papua New Guineans to the COVID-19 is only 3%. Committee chairperson Dr. Evelyn Lavu, the Director of the Central Public Health Laboratory said the 3% was very low. «We did approximately 2,000 tests, and the results are not completed yet. But the exposure to Covid-19 in PNG as a whole is very low,» she said. [11] [1]
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