Coronavirus update: Health dept, stakeholders on high alert

The Health Department, with support from the World Health Organization and stakeholders, is on high alert on the possible entry of the novel coronavirus into the country.

So far the PNG-Indonesian border in Wutung has been closed down and security check point is set up at the Jackson’s International Airport.

Procedures are in place rolling on the seafront for quarantine checks on all vessels entering through Port Moresby port.

In a press conference held to give update on the status of the coronavirus this week, the acting Secretary for Health assured the general public that though Papua New Guinea has not detected any cases, it is not taking any risks.

“Papua New Guinea was in what they called ‘high risk category’ and so it’s while we have this conference now and to make this statement now and start the process in terms of awareness, work has already been ongoing from a week ago and there’s been a lot of stakeholders and key partners engaged to deal with this particular challenge,” said Dr Paison Dakulala.

Although PNG is far from world standards in terms of surveillance on the monitoring of transmission or prevention of the novel coronavirus, acting secretary Dakulala is confident that the department and its stakeholders have sufficient procedures in place to meet the challenge if it does come.

More than 6,000 cases of 2019-nCoV have been detected globally – 5,997 from China where it originated, of which 1,230 were severe and 68 cases detected outside of China in 19 countries.

Papua New Guinea has not had a case since the virus was first detected about 40 days ago in Wuhang, China.

WHO Country Representative, Dr. Luo Dapeng, clarified that since the disease is new, experts are yet to identify its nature and characteristics. 

“We know that the disease transmission is from person to person – most is through droplets, by contact but we don’t know how efficient the transmission is. And we don’t know the picture and the nature and history of the disease…still waiting for data to tell us.”

Dr. Dakulala admitted that although he is not satisfied with the level of surveillance in place, he sees this as an opportunity to improve on it.

“But this is the opportunity for us to step up and to get the best that we can. I was alluding to our PM yesterday about preparation as we use this opportunity to build on our core capacity.

“We are discussing and interacting with all the stakeholders; this is the opportunity for us to build the setup that we require.”

Both the NDoH Acting Secretary and WHO Representative assured the nation that all stakeholders, including the Prime Minister, are doing their possible best to secure Papua New Guineans within the country from acquiring the 2019-nCoV.

Frieda Kana