New Covid-19 cases in Papua New Guinea rising ahead of restrictions

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) – Papua New Guinea reported rising coronavirus infections on Saturday (March 20), continuing a surge that highlights the need for tougher social distancing restrictions taking effect on Monday.

Internal border controls will be tightened, personal movement restricted and mask wearing made mandatory in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19, which has been overwhelming the country’s public health system.

The authorities in the Pacific island nation of nine million people said they will ban mass gatherings, close schools and may order burials in a “designated mass grave”.

PNG has recorded a spike in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, with hundreds of new daily cases.

Saturday’s announcement of 295 infections for Thursday and 132 for Friday brings confirmed cases to 3,085 with 36 deaths, but health experts believe the true numbers are likely much higher.

“Due to a high number of cases being detected, it is difficult sometimes to get everyone to isolate in a designated facility, so please, if you are told to isolate at home, make sure you do that,” Controller of the National Pandemic Response and Police Commissioner David Manning said in a statement.

A New Zealand Defence aircraft on Saturday delivered four tonnes of personal protective equipment, health authorities said, including hand sanitiser, goggles, biohazard bags and surgical masks.

Neighbouring Australia has pledged 8,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for PNG health workers.

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