22 Sep 2021

PNG Bishop says 'white man's disease' belief now dismissed

3:16 pm on 22 September 2021

As the Covid-19 threat spreads further in Papua New Guinea, the Bishop of Daru, Joseph Durero, says a mistaken belief that it only affected white people has been largely banished.

Daru, in Western Province, has seen a recent surge with dozens of cases admitted to the hospital and several deaths, including a doctor.

A health worker takes a swab from a man to test for Covid-19 at a makeshift clinic in Port Moresby on 1 April, 2021.

Photo: AFP

Bishop Durero said previously there was a common belief that Covid-19 was a 'white man's disease' and so wouldn't affect them.

"But now they realise it is not. So the diocese really emphasises about wearing masks - I think evereyone is following, even outside.

"But of course in the market places and sometimes in the stores, some people who come around are not wearing masks. But the majority is wearing masks - that's how people are conscious now," he said.

Bishop Durero said while most government workers in Daru are vaccinated, the numbers are lower among the general population.

The doctor who died was one of three medical staff from Daru Hospital reported to have died due to Covid in the past fortnight.

Hospitals in both PNG provinces at the border with Indonesia, Western and West Sepik, are reportedly full with Covid-19 patients including people confirmed to have the Delta variant.

The Eastern Highlands is also facing a surge, while Port Moresby General Hospital's ICU Covid ward is full again and the hospital has reactivated an ancillary field hospital to treat moderately ill covid patients.

US extends urgent pandemic assistance to PNG

The United States has given US$3.8 million in urgent Covid-19 assistance to Papua New Guinea.

PNG is experiencing a surge of Covid cases in several provinces, placing its health system under pressure.

US ambassador Erin Mckee meeting Manasseh Sogavare.

US ambassador Erin Mckee meeting Manasseh Sogavare. Photo: Supplied.

The US ambassador to PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, Erin McKee, said PNG is struggling to address the challenges caused by the pandemic within its communities.

The USAID assistance is to be directed towards strengthening PNG's health systems to curb the spread of the virus.

It will also help accelerate widespread and equitable access to, and delivery of safe and effective covid vaccines.