The Papua New Guinea government said on Tuesday it would limit the movement without imposing a full lockdown as coronavirus infections in the Pacific country soared.
PNG registered 82 positive cases on Tuesday from 91 tests processed in a day, causing the Australian state of Queensland to suspend charter flights from OK Tedi’s copper and gold mine, one of the country’s largest employers.
Of the most recent 500 cotton swabs taken from PNG residents by Australian health workers, 250 came back positive, according to Queensland health officials.
Prime Minister James Marape warned that the official total of 2,269 Covid-19 cases, including 26 deaths, was under-graded as it was based on those who showed up for testing.
Only 54,410 of PNG’s 9 million people have been tested, said police chief Dominic Kakas, the spokesman for the country’s Covid-19 task force.
“Transfer to the Community has taken place. It has broken loose. We have to contain it so that it doesn’t spread further, ”said Marape.
“If we don’t [take a] If we respond proactively to this, our health system will become clogged and we may not be able to sustain the outbreak that is currently taking place. “
He said health authorities are looking at “city by city or city and city, province by province, to prevent people from moving in and out.”
The country’s maritime borders with Australia and the Solomon Islands have been closed.
Marape called on people to stay in their districts and villages. He said the police and military would ensure that people and public transport follow public health measures.
There are concerns about an increase in the number of cases after mass rallies were held over the weekend to commemorate Sir Michael Somare, PNG’s first prime minister, who died last month.
Officials in Australia, which led the PNG affairs to independence in 1975, said they were monitoring the progress of the virus. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said vaccines were sent urgently to PNG to inoculate primary health care workers.
“I am very concerned about the situation in PNG and we are monitoring it very closely and actively,” said Dr. Paul Kelly, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Tuesday.
He said the vaccination has started in the Torres Strait, which separates the two countries. “They are currently vaccinating on Saibai Island, one of the islands in the Torres Strait, very close to mainland PNG,” Kelly said.