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The upcoming Papua New Guinea (PNG) national general election, scheduled to run from April through July 2022, is worrying, due to concerns not only about the health of Papua New Guineans but also the health of the country’s democracy.

Elections in PNG – held every five years – are one of the only occasions when citizens actively engage with the state on a nationwide scale. It is a period of high activity and mobility. Unfortunately, this means that in the midst of the pandemic, there are certain election-time behaviours that make them likely super spreader events.

PNG, as with the rest of the world, has grappled with the disastrous effects of COVID-19. While PNG was fortunate to miss the first wave of the pandemic thanks to the quick shutting of its international borders, by July 2020 the government had announced a curfew and declared a state of emergency.

Of great concern is the potential impact of the virus on the country’s already fragile healthcare system, which struggles to deal effectively with the everyday health needs of Papua New Guineans, let alone those that might arise during a pandemic.

Moreover, misinformation from social media and a lack of substantial, integrated awareness of the pandemic in local communities has contributed to widespread vaccine hesitancy.

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