Papua closes schools after worrying rise in COVID cases

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Port Moresby | Papua New Guinea will close its schools, limit non-essential travel and make the wearing of masks compulsory in order to stem a recent rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, a senior official in charge told AFP on Thursday. control of the pandemic.

• Read also: All the developments of the pandemic

“All schools in the country will close at the end of the week due to a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country,” said David Manning, head of the fight against the coronavirus.

In the capital Port Moresby, residents will have to stay at home except “for medical, professional or commercial reasons” and shops will close at 8pm.

These measures should be announced by the government Thursday during the day when local lockdowns should also come into force.

Papua New Guinea, one of the poorest countries in the Pacific, was quick to close its borders at the start of the pandemic, thus avoiding a deterioration of the situation.

But, since March 1, it has officially registered more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 in eight million inhabitants, a doubling of the total number of contaminations since the disease arrived in this country a year ago.

On Tuesday, the country recorded 128 new cases, a record figure and experts fear that the virus is spreading everywhere, the detection rate remaining very low.

All provinces in this nation of 9 million people “are currently experiencing an increase in the number of cases,” Manning said.

The health system, notoriously under-equipped, seems overwhelmed by this epidemic wave and the authorities fear a health catastrophe.

Doctors told AFP on Thursday that some hospitals were forced to close or reduce their capacity after caregivers tested positive for the coronavirus.

According to the director general of Port Moresby General Hospital, Paki Molumi, around 70% of the staff are infected, while Gerehu Hospital, the second in the capital, has been closed.

Health Minister Jelta Wong told AFP on Wednesday that he feared that the current wave of contamination would increase in the coming weeks and implored the AstraZeneca laboratory to urgently deliver to the archipelago a million doses of his vaccine that had been purchased by Australia.

Some 8,000 first doses of vaccines are expected to arrive Monday from Australia, they will be given as a priority to caregivers on the front line.


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