“Returning Students Must Be Tested”

Due to the reported case of Omicron in Eastern Highlands Province, the Provincial Health Authority has urged tertiary institutions to conduct COVID-19 tests on all students who are returning from hot spot provinces.

Director of Curative Health Services, Dr Max Manape confirmed that so far there were 10 fresh cases reported including an Omicron case.

“We have one confirmed Omicron case being admitted. The rest are COVID-19 cases of which six reported from Goroka Base, two in Henganofi and one in Daulo. The one Omicron case as we know from contact tracing, originated from South Africa where the carrier is a mine worker,” Dr. Manape said.

He said their worry now was finding effective ways of minimising the spread in the province and urged major educational institutions to work with the PHA in getting surveillance teams on the ground to test students returning from hot spot provinces immediately.

“We want all institutions to work with us in setting up surveillance teams for screening and possible vaccinations. Students from hot spot provinces to get tested first and the institutions must make it mandatory for vaccinations and continue the new normal practices still,” he stressed.

While the hospital management has set up additional 200 bed space at the National Sports Institute for stabilised patients, a 40-bed high dependency unit is being created as a separate 
The PHA in collaboration with Governor, Peter Numu and other stakeholders have revamped the hospital outpatient and consultation reporting systems for COVID cases, so as to cater for other complaints that were neglected during the first wave.

“Now we have created a 40 bed high dependency unit which will take serious cases only. We have a surplus of oxygen now so only patients for observation will go to NSI,” said Dr Manape.

He explained that the symptoms of the Omicron variant was not as prominent as COVID-19 variant where people experience shortness of breath. Instead, there were numerous gastro intestinal complaints received.

“This means the variant is presenting itself differently, therefore anybody with gastro problems must go for testing to ensure it is not Omicron.  For those who have been immunised already with either Johnson &Johnson or Pfeizer, there is also the booster shot available to you," he added.
PHA and Goroka Provincial hospital CEO, Dr Joseph Apa added that two more new vaccinations were being allowed into the country for use so everybody should do voluntary testing.

“The predicted second and third wave will be from February to March and July to September that's why it's important to practice hand hygiene and sanitation and be wearing masks always.”

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