PNG on ‘verge of covid red zone’, warns deputy pandemic chief

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PNG Covid-19 Deputy Controller Dr Osborne Liko
PNG's Covid-19 Deputy Controller Dr Osborne Liko tells it like it is over the pandemic crisis in his country. Image: The National

By Clifford Faiparik in Port Moresby

Eleven new covid-19 coronavirus deaths were reported in Papua New Guinea on Friday and Saturday, raising the country’s death toll to 51.

Health secretary and Covid-19 Deputy Controller Dr Osborne Liko said PNG was on the verge of been declared a coronavirus red zone as infections surged out of control nationwide.

“I am feeling uncomfortable at the rate Papua New Guineans are being infected and killed by the virus. Infections have surged by about 50 percent, deaths are up by about 40 per cent in the country within seven days,” he said.

“People, please covid-19 is not a joke. We are heading for the red zone. You have to take this Nupla Pasin and non-pharmaceutical protocols outlined in the 28 days National Isolation Strategy imposed by the Controller seriously.

“And, in the next seven days from now, everyone must seriously play their part to help check the spread of the covid-19,” he added.

Liko said deaths surged by 40 percent in seven days on Saturday.

“Last Saturday [a week ago – March 20], only 36 deaths were reported and during the week we reported 13 deaths bringing a total of 51 dead on Saturday,” he said.

“And on March 20, confirmed total infections was at 2714, and on Saturday 5205 cases were registered.

‘If you’re not serious … then?’
“The real issue is, if you are not serious about this deadly public health threat, where do we go?

“As of today, seven days from March 20, hospitals nationwide are filling up.

“Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH) has 18 beds for covid-19 patients and 16 beds are occupied.

“There are no beds in the intensive care unit (ICU). Of the six beds in ICU, four beds are occupied.

“And in the next seven days, if we are not careful and adhere strictly to the Nuipla Pasin, there will be no beds for new patients.

“And that is in PMGH [Port Moresby General Hospital].

Florence Nightingale Field Hospital
A St John Ambulance staff person sorting the pillows at the Florence Nightingale Field Hospital at the Taurama Aquatic and Indoor Centre in Port Moresby. Image: The National

“Angau Memorial Hospital in Lae is now closed because as 50 percent of the health staff have been infected with the covid-19.”

Health workers stressed out
Liko said heath workers nationwide were stressed and burned out.

“At the Rita Flynn isolation centre in Port Moresby, of the 43 beds, 39 are occupied which is about 95 per cent occupancy,” he said.

“And with the number of cases going in, we will run out of beds.”

Liko said patients who had recovered within 14 days were being sent home “but then home isolation is another challenge as we are Melanesians living with large families”.

On Friday, all the deaths were recorded in the National Capital District – four men and two women aged between 28 and 73.

They were admitted to the ICU until their death, said Covid-19 National Pandemic Response spokesman Chief Superintendent Dominic Kakas in a media statement.

He said 220 more new infections were reported on Friday and the figure rose to 5205 on Saturday.

Asia Pacific Report republishes The National articles with permission.

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