PNG dispatches investigators to check out ‘delta threat’ on Papuan border

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 Jeffrey Elapa in Port Moresby

Papua New Guinea has dispatched a team of government officials to investigate a covid-19 delta variant threat in its two frontline provinces bordering Indonesia’s Papua — Western and West Sepik.

Health Minister Jelta Wong has revealed this in Parliament while responding to questions without notice.

Admitting the rise of delta cases in the two provinces that share land and sea borders with Indonesia was a “major concern”, he told Parliament last week that the investigating team was due back in Port Moresby today and would report to government.

He was replying to a question from the Member for Aitape-Lumi, Patrick Pruaitch, who had asked what the government was doing to address the delta cases in the two border provinces.

Pruaitch said Western and West Sepik provinces were currently experiencing an increase in covid-19 that had already killed several people as reported in newspapers.

He said it was important that the government took a “frontline approach” to prevent the deadly delta variant from spreading.

Pruaitch wanted the minister to tell the nation what measures and plans it had to address the crisis, and also reveal the level of funding it had made to mitigate the spread of the variant.

Investigators on the ground
Minister Wong said the government had already dispatched the surveillance team to the two border provinces to investigate, identify the needs and report back to government.

Wong said the team would report the findings to the government which would then decide on action to be taken and funding.

The team also included some development aid partners.

Minister Wong said the variant was real and serious and was now threatening PNG with several deaths already reported, especially in Western Province.

He said while it was an individual’s choice to be vaccinated or not, it was vital for MPs to be responsible and to educate their people.

They needed to tell them the truth about the need for vaccination and about the virus that was now a threat to humanity.

Indonesia has a growing covid-19 crisis with almost 4.2 million cases, 138,889 deaths and only 15 percent of the 270 million people vaccinated.

Jeffrey Elapa is a PNG Post-Ciurier reporter.

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