In February 2021, cases rose steeply, with 449 cases reported in the month of February alone, bringing the total to 1,365 with 14 deaths.
The World Health Organization has intensified collaboration with the Government as mass gatherings to commemorate the country’s founding prime minister threaten to accelerate already rising cases of COVID-19.
Since the Prime Minister announced a 12 day mourning after the passing of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, there have been mass gatherings all across the country, including church services, community events, and a haus krai and coming state funeral.
Dr. Luo Dapeng, WHO Representative in PNG, paid tribute to the former prime minister and said his team is working closely with the NDoH to encourage safe mourning.
He said while it is fitting to mourn the loss of the late Grand Chief, it is important to do so safely. Social distancing is one of several recommendations in a range of guidance WHO has published to support national authorities and other leaders to assess, in order to minimize the risks posed by mass gatherings.
He emphasized on adherence to the preventive measures of physical distancing, wearing masks, and avoiding crowds, cleaning hands, staying home, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue.
WHO is also working with NDoH counterparts in provinces that have reported recent surges in cases, including East Sepik, West Sepik, Madang and the National Capital District.
A joint team is currently in Wewak, East Sepik, to support the province’s COVID-19 response, to mitigate risks of COVID-19 transmission during the mourning period.