Healthcare. Papua New Guinea press review

Police of Papua New Guinea (PNG) has warned Port Moresby residents to follow the new COVID-19 instructions issued by National Pandemic Response Controller David Manning or face the consequences. Metropolitan Commander Chief of the National Capital District (NCD) Perou N’Dranou said they included the wearing of masks in public and rules on public transport. According to Mr. N’Dranou, those «who do not adhere to the measures police are tasked to implement will be dealt with accordingly and may spend a night in the police cells and have their vehicles or buses impounded». «Someone caught without a proper explanation and no vehicle pass and they are in their vehicle, their vehicle will be impounded and they will spend a night in the cell […] Alcohol will not be sold during the weekends […] Taxis may operate as long as passengers are wearing a mask or face covering. And they do not operate during curfew hours, » – highlighted Mr. N’Dranou. [1]

Currently, there have been a total of 347 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea, including 237 active cases, 107 recovered cases, and 3 fatal cases. In total, as of the 20th of August 2020, COVID-19 cases have been reported in 12 of the 22 provinces of Papua New Guinea (Western – 98 people, West Sepik-1 person, Southern Highlands – 1 person, Eastern Highlands – 1 person, Morobe – 5 people, Central – 5 people, East New Britain – 2 people, West New Britain – 1 person, New Ireland – 1 person, Bougainville – 1 person, Milne Bay – 1 person and NCD – 244 people). [2]

The main part of COVID-19 cases were in Western Province and in the National Capital District. The laboratories in Port Moresby (PNG) and Brisbane (Australia) had completed over 400 tests bringing PNG’s total to 13,361 people. [3-4]

However, National Pandemic Response Controller David Manning said that the Government will not allow the use in the country of any vaccine to treat the COVID-19 which has not been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Mr. Manning issued a new order yesterday requiring that no Covid-19 vaccination or unapproved pharmaceutical intervention should be provided to any person in the country. «The new measure also states that no vaccine testing or trials for the Covid-19 shall occur in PNG, » National Pandemic Response Controller said. The Order came into effect on the 20th of August 2020. It was in response to a newspaper report in Australia that 48 Chinese employees of a PNG-based company had been vaccinated with the SARS-COV-2 vaccine on the 10th of August 2020. The issue is under investigation. [5]

The PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) Igam Barracks in Lae (Morobe Province) has restricted the movement of people for 14 days after a dependent of a soldier tested positive for the COVID-19. PNG Defence Force Commander Major-General Gilbert Toropo said only residents were allowed in and out. PNGDF holds massive testing and tracing the contacts. [6-7]

One of the major PNG oil and gas company Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited (KPHL) has agreed to provide K50 million (US$14,38 million) to the Port Moresby General Hospital’s heart facility, and K15 million (US$4,32 million) to the Angau Memorial Hospital cancer treatment facility. On the 19th of August 2020 KPHL and the Health Department in Port Moresby have signed the memorandum of agreement. KPHL Managing Director Wapu Sonk said that the funds for both hospitals would be paid out over three years. «KPHL has been doing research on how to assist [in addressing] social issues in the country and we have been contributing to the education and health sector […] We want to create a world-class facility so our citizens won’t have to go overseas to seek treatment, » Mr. Sonk said. Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape also said that both hospitals would become referral hospital for special care and the partnership with KPHL would help in improving facilities and providing necessary equipment to treat cancer and heart patients. [8]

As COVID-19 cases surge in Port Moresby, refugees stranded there by Australia fear they are too weak to fight off infection. About 180 men remain in Papua New Guinea, seven years after being detained on Manus Island (Papua New Guinea). Moved to hotels in the capital last year, some refugees were then put in apartments, all paid for by the Australian Government. According to one of the refuges, the men were weakened by years of arbitrary detention for seeking asylum in Australia, making them vulnerable to COVID-19. As stated representative of Australia’s Human Rights Law Centre David Burke, the refugees should be evacuated to the relative safety of Australia or New Zealand. [9] [1]

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