News Surge in virus cases leaves Papua New Guinea’s fragile health system on the brink

Surge in virus cases leaves Papua New Guinea’s fragile health system on the brink

PNG's health services are challenged at the best of times. Photo: AAP
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A surge in coronavirus cases in Papua New Guinea has authorities worried that the nation’s fragile health system could soon be overwhelmed.

The national total of infections has now reached 110, with two deaths.

The capital Port Moresby accounts for 102 of the cases after the virus infected health workers at a testing lab in the city’s main general hospital and spread.

National pandemic controller David Manning, who is also PNG’s police commissioner, has described the surge in cases as “alarming”.

Authorities are concerned that a big surge in infections will overwhelm PNG’s under-resourced and fragile health system.

Mr Manning said authorities would have a better idea of the current outbreak with broader community testing taking place over coming days, PNG newspaper The National reported on Monday.

Soldiers are assisting health staff in carrying out virus swabs at testing centres across Port Moresby.

PNG closed its border on March 24 and instituted lockdowns and other measures to keep the virus at bay.

Australia is sending a medical assistance team (AUSMAT) to Port Moresby to assist with lab testing, case management and infection control and has also assisted PNG by sending personal protective equipment for health workers.

The Australian Defence Force also has personnel on the ground in PNG providing plane and helicopter flights for health workers and medical supplies.