PAPUA New Guinea has had only one confirmed imported case of Covid-19 so far, according to acting Health secretary Dr Paison Dakulala.
Dakulala, who is also the deputy controller of the state of emergency (SOE), said the infected person had been referred to as the index case and was repatriated to his country of origin.
He said the case was quickly identified in the country and this demonstrated that PNG’s disease surveillance system was working and could detect cases in a timely manner.
“Since then, our surveillance officers have been taking aggressive contact tracing – identifying those who came in contact (with the infected person) and test everyone who has symptoms,” he said.
Dakulala said the highlight over the last nine days included the fact that of the 114 total contacts, the health team had been able to reach a majority of them and those who had symptoms had been tested.
He said other important points to note concerning the Covid-19 response was that:
- ALL the 15 passengers from the charter flight from Lae to Bulolo and the mine site have all tested negative as announced last Sunday;
- ALL four health workers who came into contact with the index case at the airport have all been cleared; and,
- FIFTY-TWO of the 54 passengers who were on board PX 208 from Port Moresby to Lae, Rabaul and Hoskins with the index case have been cleared.
Dakulala said the numbers in terms of the surveillance at the points of entry into PNG included:
- 29,232 arrived at airport since end of January until yesterday;
- 6,431 have travel history to Covid-19 affected countries monitored by the surveillance team and this included Australia, China, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand;
- 4,825 completed monitoring and have been cleared;
- 1,606 are still under active monitoring; and,
- SCREEN and monitor health workers, pilots and the crew and monitor and screen flights currently airlifting cargoes.
Dakulala said in the last 24 hours, there have been 28 flights scheduled to transport medical supplies and health workers throughout the country.
“These flights passengers comprised of pilots, crew members and the screening team on the ground.
“These crew members are also being monitored,” he said
Dakulala also said in the last 24 hours, 1,781 calls were received through the hotline.
“Our rapid response teams verify them and continue to follow up,” he said.
“Our laboratory, the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) has so far conducted 94 tests done as of March 27, 86 negative except the index case.”
Dakulala said there were 10 samples received by IMR and included specimens from Port Moresby, Lae, Jiwaka and Nonga (Rabaul) in East New Britain currently being tested.
“We are aware of the rumours circulating around Wewak, Moreguina and Chimbu and would like to assure the public that the team from the Health Department are working around the clock to ensure we verify these rumours.
“We will continue to update you as we gather more information.”
Dakulala said 10 lab personnel were also being trained and would boost the capacity of laboratory testing in Port Moresby.
“Our testing capacity at IMR can conduct 300 tests a day and we are looking to further increase our tests this week.”
Dakulala said as of yesterday, the UPNG medical school laboratory had start testing after undergoing training.
“This will improve our capacity to test additional 200 samples a day.”
Regarding universal transport mediums (UTMs) status, Dakulala said they have identified the need for 120,000 UTMs in the country.
“Right now, we have 160 UTMs distributed to 16 provinces, 580 UTMs currently in Port Moresby, and 4,200 UTMs to arrive in Port Moresby this afternoon from Australia,” he said.
“On the capacity to care for patients, Rita Flynn complex is an isolation centre in Port Moresby and will be in operation next week.
“People with cold and flu symptoms are advised to call the toll free number 1800 200 to report and they will be advised accordingly.
“Only those who are tested positive with Covid-19 will be sent to the Rita Flynn isolation centre.”
Dakulala said provinces through the provincial health authorities were also doing the same preparations at the provincial level.
“On the logistics and supplies, especially personal protective equipment (PPE), health teams have deployed supplies to the provinces, including the Autonomous Region of Bougainville,” he said.
“These provinces have each received 200 pieces of PPE.
“In terms of communication and awareness, the Government and non-government partners assistance in raising awareness is appreciated.
“With support from the World Health Organisation (WHO), we have communication materials with prevention messages sent to the provinces and partners.
“These are available on social media (Facebook pages for the Health Department, WHO, police and the joint agency task force national operations centre19 (JATF NOC19),” he said.
Dakulala said about 100,000 awareness materials were printed and sent or on the way to the provinces.
“We are currently utilising radio messaging currently utilised by FM100 and WHO is developing information to correct rumours and myths about Covid-19.”
He said the department of information, communication and technology has a Covid-19 website that is disseminating all joint agency taskforce statements.
“These include press statements from the Prime Minister, SOE controller and the health minister,” he said.
“With support from WHO, Health Department continues to develop awareness and prevention messages.”
Dakulala added that Unicef was supporting to print copies of posters that would be sent to the provinces.
“Two million people have been reached by SMS messaging as of yesterday,” he said.
“This is being monitored and updates to be made available on a daily basis.”
Dakulala said whilst Covid-19 may cause fear and anxiety within the public, the best thing everyone could do was to protect each other from the virus.
“We are all in this together and we all have a role to play.”