Bodies piling up at PMGH

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St John Ambulance staff wheeling in a body to the mortuary at the Port Moresby General Hospital yesterday.

DOZENS of Coronavirus (Covid-19) bodies are piling up at the Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH)’s mortuary which is filled to capacity.
As Covid-19 and its Delta variant start to wreak havoc in Papua New Guinea (PNG), a new Delta variant, touted to be 10 per cent more infectious, is being tracked in the UK.
Business Insider reported on Friday that scientists worldwide are closely tracking a descendant of the highly infectious Delta variant that is spreading in the UK.
England’s public-health authority said in a report that it was monitoring a subtype of the Delta variant called AY.4.2 which had infected more people recently (see 2 reports below).
And, as the growing threat of infections and deaths rise in PNG, employers and Government institutions are beginning to face reality with mandatory vaccinations being considered and implemented.
The National and Supreme Courts in Waigani are already in a week-long partial lockdown from Tuesday and all court staff are now required to get vaccinated for Covid-19.
The Lands and Physical Planning Department will only allow people in to be served after producing their vaccination card or Covid-19 negative test results.
Last week Wednesday, the National Capital District Commission (NCDC) announced plans to enforce a “no jab, no job” policy, requiring employees to be vaccinated by Nov 1, or be taken off the payroll.
NCD Governor Powes Parkop said the management decision was based on Occupational Health and Safety requirements and that the NCDC board would be meeting to discuss the matter.
With the highly infectious and deadlier Delta surging fast, National Pandemic Response Controller David Manning is pushing all provincial health authorities for a higher vaccination rate, setting a target to have 1.9 million people vaccinated by end of this year – about 10 weeks from now.
It was an extremely grim scene at the mortuary for the country’s biggest hospital as blue flies flock seven body bags at the layout room because there was no more space to accommodate the bodies.
Hospital medical services director Dr Kone Sobi and mortuary officer-in-charge Albert Tole said: “It is full not only with bodies of Covid-19 victims but also unclaimed bodies dating back to March.
Reporters at the entrance saw a body brought in by a St John Ambulance.
The man is believed to have died of Covid-19.
His wife, Norah Wara, lamented: “I have lost a partner of more than 20 years.
“He was a loving husband and soldier committed to his family and country.”

WHO: India delaying Covid doses

NEW DELHI: India has delayed committing supplies of vaccine to the Covax global sharing effort, two sources told Reuters on Tuesday, a day after one of its key backers, the World Health Organisation (WHO), said the agency could not “cut corners” to approve a domestically developed vaccine.
The world’s biggest vaccine maker resumed exports of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) doses this month for the first time since April.
It sent about four million to countries such as neighbouring Bangladesh and Iran, but none to Covax.
Delayed supplies to Covax could disrupt inoculation in many African nations that rely on it for vaccines.
On Monday, in the run-up to an Oct 26 meeting on Covaxin, India’s first domestically developed Covid-19 vaccine, the WHO said it could not “cut corners” in the approval decision. One of the sources said it was “frustrating” that India had yet to confirm any supply to Covax, despite a promise by the health minister last month to meet the commitment to Covax and others during the quarter to December.
The sources, who have been briefed on the export talks, declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak on the subject.
“We are still waiting for confirmation on when and how many doses we can expect when exports do resume, and are not aware of any specific delay,” Covax co-lead Gavi, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, said in an e-mail.
“Indian vaccines have a powerful role to play” in ending the pandemic, it added.
India’s health ministry, the WHO and the Serum Institute of India, which is the world’s biggest maker of vaccines, did not respond to requests for comment. – Reuters

Scientists tracking new variant

LONDON: Scientists worldwide are closely tracking a descendant of the highly infectious Delta variant that is spreading in the UK.
England’s public-health authority said in a report last Friday (local time) that it was monitoring a subtype of the Delta variant called “AY.4.2”, which had infected more people recently.
Francois Balloux, the director at the University College London Genetics Institute, tweeted last Saturday that data about AY.4.2 suggested that it could be 10 per cent more transmissible than the most common Delta variant in the UK, called “AY.4”.
“As such, it feels worthwhile keeping an eye on it,” he said.
As of Sept 27, six per cent of UK sequenced tests were AY.4.2, public health England said in its report last Friday, adding that estimates could be imprecise because it was difficult to sequence the variant’s mutations.
Former commissioner of food and drug administration Dr Scott Gottlieb said the new variant was not an “immediate cause for concern”, but he called for “urgent research” to work out whether it was more infectious or able to avoid the body’s immune response.
“We should work to more quickly characterise these and other new variants,” he said.
“We have the tools.”
Gottlieb said a coordinated, global response was required.
Dr Jeffrey Barrett, a medical genomics group leader at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, tweeted on Tuesday that AY.4.2 was the only Delta descendant that was steadily increasing, which suggested a “consistent advantage” over Delta.
Barrett cautioned that AY.4.2 was replacing Delta at a much slower rate than Delta had replaced the formerly dominant Alpha variant.
The Delta variant is estimated to be about 60 per cent more infectious than Alpha.
The same pattern for AY.4.2 had yet been seen in other countries.
Balloux said in a statement on Tuesday that the variant was “rare” outside of the UK, with only three cases detected in the US so far.
“In Denmark, the other country that besides the UK has excellent genomic surveillance in place, it reached a two per cent frequency but has gone down since,” he said.
The virus that causes the Coronavirus (Covid-19) gets about two new mutations per month and there are now 56 Delta descendants, showed Scripps Research’s, which included data from the centres for disease control and prevention.
The AY.4.2 has two new mutations in the part of the virus that attaches to human cells, which is called the spike protein. It is not yet clear how these mutations could affect the virus’ behaviour. – Business Insider