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Papua New Guinea sees jump in coronavirus cases

KOKOPO (AFP) – Papua New Guinea reported on Friday (Feb 26) its largest daily jump in Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began, with infections spreading to remote regions with poor health infrastructure.

A total of 89 new cases were detected on Thursday, according to the country’s coronavirus task force, taking the total to 1,228.

“This is the highest number of cases reported in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic,” said spokesman Dominic Kakas.

While Papua New Guinea appears to have avoided the worst of the pandemic, there are concerns about clusters in several provinces and a lack of widespread testing.

Only 50,000 Covid-19 tests have been carried out in the nation of some nine million since the pandemic began, and the World Health Organisation has said that “the number of confirmed cases tends to be higher in provinces which report doing more testing”.

The largest number of cases in the last year has been found in the capital Port Moresby, but now several more remote regions with limited public health facilities are trying to get outbreaks under control.

Seventy-five of the new cases were reported in West Sepik on the border with the Indonesian province of West Papua, and cases were also found on the islands of New Britain and Bougainville.

Dr Alex Maha, a top government doctor for the islands, said travellers from west New Britain crossing to the east are now being screened for symptoms and an isolation facility has been set up in the main town of Kokopo.

Doctor and Nonga General Hospital chief executive Ako Yap said one person developed symptoms after attending a church gathering last week. Contact tracing was due to start Friday.

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