Papua New Guinea declares state of emergency as coronavirus cases double

The number of coronavirus cases in Papua New Guinea has almost doubled over the weekend.

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister James Marape is facing a challenge to his leadership.

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister James Marape is facing a challenge to his leadership. Source: AAP

Up until now, Papua New Guinea has been successful in suppressing the coronavirus outbreak, with only a handful of cases. 

The next few days will be telling about whether that luck continues.

A state of emergency has been declared with the number of cases in the country almost doubling over the weekend, up from 32 on Friday to 62 on Sunday. 

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Eighty per cent of all coronavirus cases in the country have been recorded in the last 10 days.

On Monday, Prime Minister James Marape announced the country's first suspected coronavirus fatality - a 35-year-old health worker diagnosed with COVID-19 who died in an intensive care ward. 

 


Health and government authorities are on high alert, particularly in the crowded capital Port Moresby where there are concerns a major outbreak could be devastating.

Mr Marape announced the city will be placed into a 14-day lockdown, with gatherings limited to 15 people.

Residents will be given seven days to obtain masks, after which point they will be mandatory. 

"Us in Papua New Guinea, we are not superhuman beings. We are not immune from it," Mr Marape said.

"Each and every one of us can get COVID-19 and we must all work side by side supporting each other."

"This morning we sat in the National Security Council meeting and in those deliberations, it became evident that a greater isolation strategy needs to be deployed."

Boats are moored outside homes in the stilted village of Hanuabada near Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
Boats are moored outside homes in the stilted village of Hanuabada near Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Source: AAP


There are also concerns the actual rate of infection could be significantly higher, with testing across the country extremely limited.  

The country's COVID-19 isolation facility in the capital has a limited capacity and may be overrun by the end of the week. 

“[That centre] has a 72-bed capacity. When we reach the capacity, we may have to consider other possibilities, including home quarantine,” Dr Paison Dakulala, the deputy controller of PNG’s national pandemic response, said.



Staff at the country's main hospital, Port Moresby General, have raised concerns for their safety due to staff shortages from those being forced into quarantine and over a lack of personal protective equipment. 

“Our challenge is to continue to attend to all normal emergencies to save more lives, and at the same time ensure we and our patients are safe from COVID-19,” hospital chief executive Dr Paki Molumi said.



As well as limited numbers at gatherings, schools and universities will be shut for the next fortnight and a 10pm to 5am curfew enforced.

Non-essential domestic travel between regions has also been banned.

Churches will remain open but are encouraged to limit numbers at services.

“We simply don’t have the capacity, we don’t have enough space in isolation facilities, in the hospital, we don’t have enough medical officers and we don’t have enough equipment,” Governor of Port Moresby Powes Parkop told the ABC.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at


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3 min read
Published 27 July 2020 at 9:02pm
By Naveen Razik, Jarni Blakkarly

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