Testing in PNG's West Sepik after Covid-19 case emerges

1:52 pm on 10 August 2020

The main high school in Papua New Guinea's West Sepik province may go into lockdown after a teacher tested positive for Covid-19.

The harbour and airport in Vanimo, capital of Papua New Guinea's West Sepik province.

Vanimo harbour and airport. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

The teacher became the province's first known Coronavirus case, as the total number of confirmed cases in PNG surged past 200 at the weekend.

Most of the cases were in the capital of Port Moresby, but infections had now spread to eight provinces.

West Sepik Governor Tony Wouwou said the teacher, from Vanimo High School, had just returned from Moresby, and was tested after displaying signs of sickness.

"He and his family were locked down, (went) into lockdown in their residence in the high school.

"Maybe by tomorrow we should lock down the whole school for a week, and see how it goes. And then we should be back to normal again," Wouwou said.

He said test results were pending for other members of the teacher's family and colleagues who travelled to Port Moresby with him.

As contact tracing continued in relation to the case, the governor said there was a good level of awareness in Vanimo around the Covid threat.

His administration closed the nearby border with Indonesia close to the beginning of the year in anticipation of the Covid-19 threat.

The high number of confirmed cases in Indonesia's Papua region justified the move, Wouwou said.

Although the border was difficult to monitor, the main access point at Wutung remained shut and people need clearance from the civil controller to cross.

Meanwhile, the governor rejected claims on social media that Vanimo's hospital had closed for most services after the local Covid-19 case was confirmed.

Wouwou said people who were presenting malaria, tuberculosis, respiratory illness or any serious illness should still seek treatment.

"Definitely. They have to come because, you never know... They have to come to the hospital to get treatment. If we stop them, some people are going to die," he said

"The hospital will never close. They will still continue but must have social distancing, wearing face masks and all these things, water sanitation, have to be in place."

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Photo: PNG Parliament