Guest essay by Eric Worrall
New Guinea, a large island nation which is separated from Australia by a narrow sea channel, is experiencing a surge in severe Covid cases, prompting alarm from Australian health authorities.
Papua New Guinea records worrying rise in COVID-19 cases as hospitals struggle to keep up
- The surge in cases came after thousands gathered at a state funeral in Port Moresby
- Australia’s High Commissioner to PNG says Australia is keen to help as quickly as possible
- Queensland’s Premier says she’s concerned given her state’s close proximity to PNG
Papua New Guinea is experiencing a worrying rise in COVID-19 cases and there are concerns it will get worse after mass gatherings were held to farewell the country’s first prime minister.
The building that houses the Prime Minister’s Department has been locked down for four days after cases were detected among staff.
PNG has now recorded 2,000 cases.
The surge came after thousands gathered at a state funeral in Port Moresby for Sir Michael Somare, who died a fortnight ago, with more events scheduled in the coming days.
There are concerns that the number of cases will jump significantly in a couple of weeks’ time as a result.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said given her state’s close proximity to PNG, “it is something we need to be very serious about”.
“We have been assisting with some tests [there], and out of the 500 tests that our health authorities have done for PNG 250 have come back positive,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“This is a real concern.
“Papua New Guinea is on the doorstep of the Torres Strait and Queensland, and I hope to speak to the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister’s office in the next 24 hours just to talk about our concerns there, have a look at the flights coming in.”
Australia is in general a geographically isolated nation, but the large chain of coral cays and shallow lagoons which connects Australia’s Cape York with New Guinea is navigable by small boat, and difficult for Australia’s coastguard to patrol.