PNG health staff assured of protective gear as cases rise

2:14 pm on 24 July 2020

Papua New Guinea authorities have assured health workers that there is enough protective equipment for responding to covid-19 cases.

Another covid-19 case has been confirmed in Port Moresby, taking the total number confirmed cases in PNG to date to 31, most of them having emerged in the past week in the capital.

PNG's Pandemic Response Controller David Manning (left), Prime Minister James Marape (centre) and Acting Health Secretary Paison Dakulala (right).

PNG's Pandemic Response Controller David Manning (left), Prime Minister James Marape (centre) and Acting Health Secretary Paison Dakulala (right). Photo: PNG PM Media Unit

The acting Health Secretary Paison Dakulala said as nineteen active cases were being isolated, the covid-19 joint agency task force team is conducting contact tracing for these cases, and preparing for more testing.

A high number of the new cases come from Port Moresby General Hospital, where last week several workers at the central laboratory tested positive. Dakulala has offered assurance about Personal Protection Equipment for health workers.

"There is a sufficient supply of Personal Protectiion Equipment in the country for health workers with stocks of N-95 masks, surgical masks, goggles, gloves and cover robes, being distributed to all provincial authorities."

Dakulala said the central lab in Moresby is being decontaminated, and that processing of samples for covid-19 will be handled by other facilities in the meantime.

"We have initiated a process in the next several days to ensure that testing continues with the Institute of Medical Research in Goroka but also in the laboratory in Brisbane as well as the laboratory in Singapore."

Dakulala said that so far the total numbner of people tested for the virus was 9585. Results are still pending for 292 tests.

Meanwhile, a raft of new measures about restrictions on public movement in the capital have been announced by the Pandemic Response Controller David Manning.

In some cases they are a continuation of measures put in place during the State of Emergency between March and June.

Others relate to outer provinces preparing to handle potential community transmission, for instance with provincial hospitals directed to activate isolation facilities for potential Covid patients.

Bus in Port Moresby, PNG

People travelling on public buses in Port Moresby have been urged to wear masks Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koroi Hawkins

For now, the surge of cases in Port Moresby is the urgent focus of the Health Department, the National Operations Centre and the joint agency task force team.

Earlier, Prime Minister James Marape urged people in the city to wear masks, maintain social distancing and good hygiene standards.

Manning, who is also the police commissioner, pressed the public to take personal responsibility to be aware of the threat of covid-19 and follow recommended measures.

"Let me assure all our residents and those visiting the capital that whilst concerned about the upsurge, we are very much confident that with the community's engagement and the community's co-operation we will be able to at least stem the spread or contain the spread of covid-19 in the city."

Manning said the option of a total lockdown in the capital remained on the table. The number of cases that emerge in the next week could be the decisive factor.