Controller of the National Pandemic Response and Police Commissioner Mr David Manning has urged people to listen and take heed of health measures as COVID-19 cases rapidly increase around the country.
The country’s total positive cases have reached 1,429 with 16 deaths, of which three were reported within days apart. Mr Manning said the number of cases reported in last week was from 20 to 49 a day which is too high, while at the same time health workers are saying the cases are more severe than what they had seen last year.
Furthermore, he said this week PNG had also reported more than one case of an expatriate in quarantine which puts the country in danger of importing a new variant which should make people take note and adhere to health measures in place.
“We did very well at the beginning but we are now at a point where we are reporting many cases – more than 20 in a day from different provinces. We have outbreaks going on in Madang, West Sepik Province and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
The high number of cases are also coming from the NCD, Western Province, West New Britain, East New Britain, Western Highlands and Morobe.
“While we want to ensure the economy is not affected by not restricting movement of people so they can go about their businesses, everyone has a duty to protect another person as well as themselves by adhering to the health measures in place,’’ Mr Manning said.
He said the latest deaths reported on Tuesday are from West Sepik Province which shares the border with Indonesia, one of the countries with a high infection rate. Papua New Guineans living near the border travel to and fro, putting their lives at risk.
They could also bring the infection into the country because there are no strict measures in place to protect them. Mr Manning said,
“The signs are clear. We are in a difficult situation. COVID-19 is not a new disease anymore. We have evidence of how it is being spread so we need to ensure we are following the health measures in place.’’ Mr Manning said while there are no intentions immediately to restrict the movement of people, they need to listen and ensure they are adhering to the protocols in place while going about doing their businesses.
“At the beginning we were saying this disease is only for other countries, but it is here now, spreading among us. The new variants being reported in countries such as the United Kingdom, is now next door. The Philippines, which has a big population traveling to our country has now reported a new variant, too.”
“The new variants are more transmissible than the original one – about 70 per cent more infectious. There is the danger of us having very high infection rates and not having the manpower and facilities to care for our people,’ Mr Manning said.
Mr Manning added that evidence shows that the disease spreads fast in mass gatherings and urged everyone at mass gatherings not to forget to adhere to the New Normal or Niupela Pasin, these include wearing of face masks, physical distancing by 1.5 to 2 metres from the next person; washing of hands (or sanitize your hand if you have a sanitizer); and covering of coughs or coughing into elbow to prevent the spread of an infection.
Meanwhile, the two latest deaths reported on Tuesday are of a 70-year-old man who died while in the isolation ward at the Sandaun Provincial Hospital, while the other, a 27-year-old woman, also from Sandaun, was a new mum who had just given birth. Due to having COVID-19, she was being cared for at the isolation ward where she sadly succumbed to the disease.
“This is the kind of loss we do not want to continue to see. Families losing loved ones who are still in their prime. Please I appeal to you all to listen and seriously take the health measures in place.
They are not just against COVID-19, but also other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis which is a big problem in the country,’’ Mr Manning said.