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‘Major’ COVID-19 outbreak fears as Papua New Guinea’s ‘really challenged’ health system struggles to cope

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Article image for ‘Major’ COVID-19 outbreak fears as Papua New Guinea’s ‘really challenged’ health system struggles to cope

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced new restrictions for Papua New Guinea, amid fears of a “major” COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

Starting from midnight tonight, all passengers flights from Papua New Guinea into Cairns will be suspended for a fortnight.

Australia will supply 8000 vaccines to urgently inoculate frontline health workers in Papua New Guinea.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly says “all signs are that there is a major epidemic” in the country.

From January 3 to March 16, there were 2351 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea, but there are fears the true figure is much higher.

Director of the Institute of National Affairs, a think-tank based in Port Moresby, Paul Barker says “the number of tests has been fairly limited”.

Mr Barker says there has been an attitude of complacency towards the pandemic in Papua New Guinea, but that’s now beginning to change.

“The health system is really challenged at the best of times,” he told Neil Mitchell.

“Quite a lot of health workers have been diagnosed as positive with COVID, so that’s making them feel pretty uneasy.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the federal government is helping PNG get on top of the crisis.

“They’re our family, they’re our friends they’re our neighbours, they’re our partners. They have always stood with us and we will always stand with them. This is in Australia’s interest and it is in our region’s interest,” he said.

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