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Papua New Guinea COVID-19 Cases surge to 62

As of 26 July, Papua New Guinea has a total of 62 COVID-19 cases. There were 46 new cases detected from 19 to 26 July. As cases continue to increase rapidly in Papua New Guinea, majority of cases cannot be easily linked to a source of infection. Currently, about 35% of the cases have an epidemiological link established. As nearly all new cases have been reported from the National Capital District, community transmission in NCD is indicated.

Priorities for the coming weeks would be in the following areas of work:

✅ Coordination: COVID-19 Response Plans for the National Coordination Centre (NCC) and Provincial Coordination Centres will be put in place as mandated by the National Pandemic Act 2020. The previous National Response Plans prepared by the National Department of Health and the provincial plans written by Provincial Health Authorities shall be reviewed and can be used as bases for the revised/new plans. A meeting is now being arranged between the Prime Minister and Provincial Health Authority CEOs to improve coordination and ramp up provincial preparedness activities.

✅ Surveillance and Testing: Testing is expanded with the implementation of an enhanced testing strategy. Community-based testing is now being discussed with stakeholders and community leaders as part of the expanded testing and active case finding strategy. Support for community testing, quarantine and isolation is now being explored with non-government organizations and development partners in preparation for a surge in cases in the National Capital District. Currently, contact tracing is priority. The NCD Provincial Health Authority is leading case investigation and contact tracing with support from the NCC and WHO. WHO is also supporting health care worker risk assessments. From the hospital-based cases, a total of 22 health care workers so far have been found to be at high risk for infection due to exposure and lack of appropriate PPE.

✅ Quarantine: Additional resources are required to improve monitoring of persons in quarantine, facility assessments and instituting home quarantine.

✅ Case Management: All confirmed COVID-19 patients are to be isolated at the 79-bed Rita Flynn Facility regardless of severity. Provisions for case management are being put in place to ensure capacity for appropriate care and treatment. Surge plan for an additional 200-bed facility using nearby sports facilities had been approved and shall be activated in the next few weeks.

✅ Infection Prevention and Control: With the recent approval of the National IPC Policy and Guidelines, printing and distribution to health facilities are being planned. The National IPC Technical Working Group shall meet and regular working discussions with the IPC focal points throughout the provinces shall be established. IPC measures in health facilities need to be improved.

✅ Risk Communication & Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs): Political and community leaders are continuously being engaged. Media, including social media, are being used to encourage behaviour change in hygiene practice, symptoms monitoring, staying at home when feeling unwell and reporting to the national hotline. With the recent launch of the Niupela Pasin (New Way), a new cluster is being set up at the National Control Centre to effectively roll out the Niupela Pasin guidance and ensure that establishments and communities put hygiene and social distancing measures in place.

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COVID-19 Cases in PNG Surge to 39

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