Australian officials carry boxes of about 8,000 starting doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine after arriving aboard a Royal Australian Air Force plane at Port Moresby International Airport on March 23, 2021 as Papua New Guinea sped to seek a Covid-19 -To suppress the increase that overwhelmed him fragile health system.
Andrew Kutan | AFP | Getty Images
The coronavirus crisis in Papua New Guinea continues to escalate as the Indo-Pacific nation seriously waits for vaccines to arrive.
In just one week – between March 22nd and March 28th – 1,786 new cases of Covid-19 and 13 deaths were reported, according to the latest report from the World Health Organization and National Ministry of Health from PNG.
The weekly joint report said the island nation reported a total of 5,349 cases and 49 deaths on March 28, 12:00 p.m. local time. It was the eighth week in a row of gains.
Papua New Guinea is a heavily forested nation of fewer than 9 million people, located about 160 km north of Australia at its closest point.
Prime Minister James Marape confirmed last week there is “rampant community broadcast”.
The local situation in PNG is said to be bad and international organizations like Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have warned of an impending collapse the overburdened health system in the country.
“The health care system in PNG is at risk of collapse as the health facilities that manage COVID-19 are almost at full capacity and almost too congested to provide regular basic care,” said Doctors Without Borders.
The Pacific island nation has only about 500 doctors, fewer than 4,000 nurses, and fewer than 3,000 community health workers, according to the Prime Minister shared during an address to Parliament last year. There are only about 5,000 beds in hospitals, he added.
MSF, which provides medical humanitarian aid to countries in crisis, said so an increasing number of health workers Tested positive for Covid-19 in PNG and forced to quarantine her at home. The health facilities handling the outbreak are almost at full capacity, resulting in longer waiting times.
According to Kate Schuetze, a Pacific researcher at Amnesty International, PNG also has relatively poor health indicators.
“We already have a bad health system and then you also have a high level of comorbidities, which will also affect the Covid-19 crisis,” Schütze told CNBC on Wednesday. “So you have malaria in the country, you have multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and a number of other diseases that could increase the effects of Covid-19.”
Large numbers of people also live in rural or remote communities where it is difficult to get the same health care as in urban centers like Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, she added.
According to the joint report by the WHO and the Ministry of Health, only 7,061 Covid tests were performed between March 22 and 28 – this means that 25.29% of these tests were positive.
In most parts of the country, large-scale testing remains low and there is a shortage of test kits as well as logistical difficulties, the report said. This suggests that the actual number of infections across the country may be significantly higher than officially reported.
As the isolation wards in hospitals filled up, PNG became a Sports complex in a temporary field hospital for Covid-19 patients.
MSF said Friday that it is helping local health services by providing staff and cartridges to analyze samples of the polymerase chain reaction Tests often used to detect the coronavirus. According to Doctors Without Borders, almost 40% of people tested in any of the health facilities have Covid-19. The organization expects more cases in the coming weeks.
MSF also said it only has enough trial cartridges to last up to two weeks.
“Additional personal protective equipment, testing capacity and human resources must be seen as swift to support the already strained health system,” Ghulam Nabi, MSF interim head of mission for Papua New Guinea, said in a statement.
He added that MSF urges organizations in the region to act quickly and mobilize to increase their support for the Pacific nation.
PNG launched its vaccination campaign this week with the 8,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 shots donated by Australia.
Of the country Prime Minister Marape received his first dose on Tuesday, According to reports.
Growing vaccine nationalism Around the world, small developing countries like PNG are finding it harder to access shots to vaccinate their populations.
Many of them rely on a global vaccination initiative called Covax, which aims to ensure the equitable distribution of shots in less affluent countries. It is jointly managed by the WHO, Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
According to Amnesty Schuetze, one of the challenges with the Covax facility is that not enough countries are donating enough money, resources or vaccines to ensure fairer distribution.
For its part, Australia has reportedly asked the European Union to distribute 1 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to PNG. It was in the beginning contracted to go to Australia. Reuters reported last week that the EU has not yet responded to this request.
Canberra has also reportedly asked the US, Japan and India – the other members of the informal Quad Alliance – to help PNG.
Meanwhile, vaccine skepticism and the spread of misinformation complicate matters in the island nation. Opposition leader Belden Namah is said to have asked The government is said to suspend the launch of the AstraZeneca vaccine as it would expose citizens to potentially serious harm.
The PNG government needs to do more to educate and educate the public about vaccines and health treatments for Covid-19, Amnestys Schuetze said.