Healthcare. Papua New Guinea press review

Head of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Port Moresby General Hospital and School of Medicine and Health Science (UPNG) Professor Glen Mola says the current increase in the COVID-19 cases in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is to be expected, and may even reach the thousands between September and December 2020. Professor Glen Mola, who had warned early last month when the number was still well below 20 that there would be a surge, the continuing increase would put a strain on the PNG healthcare system.

«There is no sudden spike in infections. This is the expected trend of infection […] PNG was in the latent phase of the epidemic from March to May (when the rest of the world was from January to March) […] PNG had an upswing slow-rise trend of the epidemic in June-July (when the rest of the world was in March-April) […] In August we enter the exponential rise part of the epidemic. We will have hundreds of positive test infections and perhaps thousands in September to December.» – Mr Mola said. Professor urged people and authorities to remain calm, and also advised the Government not to lock down the country too much lest it «fall over economically». [1]

Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape has urged people to stop moving around because COVID-19 cases spiralled past 100 people. Prime Minister said this after meeting with a local medical team, including Professor Sir Isi Kevau, Dr Glen Mola, Professor John Vince, Professor Teafarani and other Doctors, who are part of the medical and scientific committee, and came in to advise the National Control Centre, the Controller and the Government on what to do in this stage of Covid-19 in PNG. «Our medical and scientific community has recommended that our country deploy both non-clinical defensive strategies as well as clinical-care strategies […] One effective non-clinical way to stop COVID-19 from spreading or you contracting it is isolation,» Prime Minister James Marape said. [2]

Currently, there have been a total of 163 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in PNG with 2 deaths. More than 40 people have been discharged and there are more than 100 active cases. The cases were mostly patients and health workers from the main hospital in the capital, Port Moresby. In total, as of the 7th of August 2020, COVID-19 cases have been reported in 7 of the 22 provinces of Papua New Guinea (Western – 11 people, West Sepik-1 person, Southern Highlands – 1 person, Eastern Highlands – 1 person, Morobe – 3 people, East New Britain – 2 people, and NCD-144 people).

Meanwhile, a team of Australian health workers – including doctors, nurses and lab and logistics specialists – have arrived in PNG to help the country deal with the spike in cases. [3-4]

However, Rita Flynn Isolation Facility Manager Dr Gary Nou said that Port Moresby may need to expand its COVID-19 isolation facilities quickly and effectively in case a big spike in cases occurs. According to Mr Nou, Rita Flynn Isolation Facility can possibly be stretched to 100 if need be. Dr Nou also told about the plan, which is s to have mild cases isolated in a bigger facility, moderate cases isolated at Rita Flynn, and the critically sick isolated at the Port Moresby General Hospital or an intensive care unit facility. According to Doctor, the trend globally is that 85% of the cases are mild and asymptomatic, and 15% require some form of medical care, with 5% of those requiring critical to high dependency care. [5]

In total, 6 doctors, 88 nurses and 1 X-ray technician have been recruited to boost manpower at the Port Moresby General Hospital as the capital city is struggling to beat a surge in COVID-19 community transmission. They will fill in for hospital employees who had been exposed to the COVID-19 and had to be quarantined. [6]

At the same time, the high number of health workers or officials and staff from Port Moresby General Hospital among the current surge in confirmed cases was a major concern for PNG authorities. The government insisted there was enough Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for all health workers in the country. But PNG Prime Minister Hon. James Marape suggested that more rigid protocol regarding use of PPE would be introduced to ensure it was effective for frontline workers. Earlier Mr Marape announced a two-week lockdown in the capital in a bid to contain transmission of COVID-19, admitting the virus was now widespread. Meanwhile, COVID-19 Controller David Manning, who is also the police commissioner, said that to date over 10 470 people had been tested for COVID-19, with hundreds of results still pending. [7]

In turn, PNG Minister for Education Joseph Yopyypoy has issued a direction for all education authorities and administrators of schools and institutions operating under the national education system, permitted schools and private schools in the National Capital District (NCD) to suspend classes. So, face to face learning in schools are suspended for two weeks until the 12th of August 2020. [8]

Sporting events have also been suspended in PNG following an increase in COVID-19 cases. [9] Read more news from the Miklouho-Maclay Foundation: