Hospitals near the pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG) have only 500 doctors for their 9 million patients. They are so overburdened they began to accept less patients, arousing fear among crowds. Now, many people don’t have medical facilities open, and there are very limited resources. According to Johns Hopkins University, PNG just recently and efficiently escaped a major coronavirus outbreak around February, with only 1,275 cases. However, the number of outbreaks was only the beginning. Last month, cases tripled. There were 4,660 cases and 39 deaths according to a Radio New Zealand report. And on Friday, the number increased by 560, a shocking number when only a day passed. Remember, there are only 500 doctors for 9 million people.
CNN states that low testing rates also mean PNG’s case load is likely much higher. As people in the Christian nation travel home for Easter, cases soar in numbers, and so PNG are asking Australia and New Zealand to help. No one really knows what caused the outbreak. Johns Hopkins University Data hypothesizes that it might have been cases from Indonesia, a country with almost 1.5 million reported cases who shares a border with PNG. Justine McMahon, PNG country director for CARE gives a word, “I’m pretty concerned. The number of people who came together for the period of mourning, if it goes like any other country, it’s just going to spread like anything”.
To try and lower this breakout, the spread of misinformation has to cease too. There was a surge of suspensions of the AstraZeneca Vaccine, and the leader of PNG suspended it along with others, which formed a threat to the public. By putting misconceptions to the stop, cases coupled possibly also slow down.
85% of the population survive and make money through farming, which makes lockdowns challenging. Visiting busy markets on a daily basis is challenging the idea of lockdowns. Even Reva-Lou Reva, a PNG assistant country director of program support for humanitarian non-profit CARE, wants to witness a lockdown. Reva says, “Everywhere, anywhere we go, we don’t feel safe anymore”. Testings also need to be escalated, some places in NPG have no testing capabilities, so no one knows who has the virus or not. Part of PNG’s solution comes from other countries. Australia provided 8,000 AstraZeneca vaccines for PNG which will be rolled out next week. New Zealand also donated around 9,700 pounds of personal protective equipment. China also offered a batch of vaccines, although PNG has yet to accept the offer. With a fragile health system, PNG can only hope, and cope with what they can do.