Excerpt from PolicyForum.net
Twelve months ago this week, the first COVID-19 case hit the Pacific island countries. In the last fortnight with the spike of cases in Papua New Guinea (PNG) that year of experience has been overshadowed, but it holds hope and lessons that should not be lost.
A year on, the situation in PNG is most concerning. Known case numbers in the country are doubling every week. With just 50,000 tests conducted in a country of nine million people, it was guaranteed that the true spread was far greater — recent statistics confirmed there was more COVID-19 in the community than officially recorded.
Daily cases, that is the few being detected through the sparse medical system, are pushing close to 200 and rising. Overrun with cases and increasing infections among health workers, governments are scrambling to get medical supplies in quickly and open more health facilities. 8,000 vaccines will arrive shortly which will cover the very few health care workers, and another 288,000 are on the way in the next few weeks for other essential workers.
The Australian Government has requested that European authorities divert one million doses of Australia’s contracted vaccine supplies to PNG. Still the population is nearly nine million, and mostly rural and remote.
Although a surge in personnel, supplies and vaccines are flowing into the country, and the PNG Prime Minister is starting to take stronger action, the challenge in this diverse country will be to match supplies, with services and community education.
Elsewhere in the Pacific, there is hope. Impressively, the Pacific accounts for eight of the world’s 10 countries which are yet to record a single case of the virus. The elite club includes: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Tonga, and Tuvalu.
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