Madang nurse tests positive as PNG covid delta fears rise after eight cases

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Covid-19 training for PNG Defence Force
Medical staff of Papua New Guinea’s Defence Force receiving hands-on training on covid-19 responses from the World Health Organisation. Image: WHO/File

By Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby

A female nurse in Madang is the first local Papua New Guinean to be tested positive for the highly infectious coronavirus covid-19 delta strain, with health officials scrambling to find out where she got it from.

She becomes the eighth confirmed case in Papua New Guinea. The other seven cases recorded so far are:

  • A woman from Myanmar who had been in hotel quarantine since arriving in PNG. She was a close contact of another traveller who had tested positive on July 13. Both have since recovered; and
  • Six Filipino crew members, including the captain, of a vessel which arrived from Indonesia last month. Four were in isolation on the vessel while the captain and another were in isolation at a private hospital in Port Moresby. All have recovered, and the Covid-19 National Control Centre (NCC) allowed the vessel to leave the country.

Controller of the PNG Covid-19 National Pandemic Response David Manning said the concern now was on the nurse in Madang.

Controller of the PNG Covid-19 National Pandemic Response David Manning said the concern now was on the nurse in Madang.

“This is a local case, outside of Port Moresby and (not associated) with the (Filipino vessel crew members) cluster tests,” he said.

“This proves community transmission which is of particular concern to us.

“Finding the infection source”
“We are working on finding the source of the infection in Madang.”

He said the NCC would continue to update the public on the Madang case.

“She had presented with symptoms on June 30, and immediately went into isolation while awaiting test results,” he said.

“She then remained in quarantine until she was no longer symptomatic.

“But when her positive test result revealed a high viral load, a sample was sent to the Doherty Institute in Melbourne for whole genomic sequencing.”

Manning warned that if the delta strain was to spread in PNG, it could result in “thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of people becoming very sick”.

He also warned about a potential third wave of covid-19 infections and urged the people to follow covid-19 public safety measures and get vaccinated.

“PNG has done well under the international health regulations by detecting the covid-19 celta variant cases, managing them and discharging them when they were cleared medically from isolation.”

The genomic sequencing results for each of the eight confirmed covid-19 delta strain cases were received from the Doherty Institute in Melbourne on August 4.

Miriam Zarriga is a reporter for The National. This article is republished with permission.

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