Isolation strategy begins in PNG as Covid-19 surges

3:28 pm on 22 March 2021

A nationwide isolation strategy has commenced today in Papua New Guinea in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.

This comes as the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in PNG climbed quickly past 3000, while the official death toll is 36.

Foot traffic in inner Port Moresby.

Foot traffic in inner Port Moresby. Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

Under the isolation strategy, movement of people between villages and districts is restricted, while mask use in public venues is mandatory.

The National Pandemic Response Controller, David Manning, says compliance with recommended safety measures has been a big challenge.

"Covid-19 is an invisible killer that spreads through the air that we inhale and the objects that we touch," Manning said.

"But we as a people, as workers, small business owners and government employees, can do our part to protect our loved ones and try and keep them safe."

Mr Manning says that as well as mask-use, people must wash their hands frequently and maintain social distancing in public.

More staff at PNG's main hospital test positive

More medical Doctors at PNG's main hospital, Port Moresby General, have tested positive for COVID-19.

The National Doctors Association Secretary, Dr Sam Yockopua, told local media that 35 doctors at the hospital have tested positive.

Last week authorities said more than 100 frontline health staff in Port Moresby had tested positive to date.

Dr Yockopua said the health workforce strength was fast depleting, affecting the hospital's operations, which were already overstretched.

Wards are already full due to the increased number of Covid patients, while medical staff who test positive are required to isolate for ten days.

Port Moresby General Hospital

Port Moresby General Hospital Photo: POM General Hospital

Hospitals and clinics in other parts of the country are facing similar strains in staffing and resources.

Angau hospital in PNG's second city of Lae last week suspended services due to the surge in Covid-19 cases.

Meanwhile, the health service provider St John's is helping Papua New Guinea set up an extra care centre for Covid-19 patients in the capital.

Wards at Port Moresby General Hospital are full due to increased cases.

The capital's Rita Flynn gymnasium is used as an extra covid ward, but only has a 43-bed capacity.

Matthew Cannon from St John's PNG said the organisation was helping to establish a new facility at Moresby's Taurama Aquatic Centre.

"The facility has a theoretical capacity of close to 300 beds," he explained.

"We're working with partners including WHO (World Health Organisation), MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) and others to evaluate if we can upgrade this facility if needed to up to around 300 beds that can manage higher acuity patients."

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