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Australia PNG COVID-19 outbreak at 'critical' point, WHO says

01:15  17 april  2021
01:15  17 april  2021 Source:   9news.com.au

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Papua New Guinea's battle with a surging COVID - 19 outbreak is at a " critical " stage as health authorities battle a fragile health system, slow and limited testing and vaccine hesitancy. The World Health Organisation convened a special panel of experts to discuss the situation with the media on Thursday evening, where concerns were aired about widespread community transmission and more healthcare workers becoming infected. The country of eight million people has received about 140,000 vaccine doses, including 8000 from Australia, but is far from protecting all of its doctors and nurses, let

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says the testing results from the Auckland cluster so far indicate that New Zealand has dodged a Covid - 19 bullet. And he says he still has confidence in the Ministry of Health, even though he was wrongly told "several weeks ago" that staff managing positive cases at the Jet Hipkins told the Herald that the outbreak appears to have been detected before it had a chance to explode - not only in Auckland, but all over the country. "You never want to speak too soon, but it does appear we've managed to get there just on the moment it was critical ." Cabinet will still wait for the

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization. © Getty Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization.

Papua New Guinea's battle with a surging COVID-19 outbreak is at a "critical" stage as health authorities battle a fragile health system, slow and limited testing and vaccine hesitancy.

The World Health Organisation convened a special panel of experts to discuss the situation with the media on Thursday evening, where concerns were aired about widespread community transmission and more healthcare workers becoming infected.

The country of eight million people has received about 140,000 vaccine doses, including 8000 from Australia, but is far from protecting all of its doctors and nurses, let alone the rest of its population.

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The COVID - 19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic, is an ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 ( COVID - 19 ) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2

China and the World Health Organization ( WHO ) could have acted quicker and more forcefully to contain the start of the Covid - 19 outbreak , an independent review panel said on Monday.

WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said Australia's closest neighbour was "a perfect example of why vaccine equity is so important."

"It has held COVID-19 at bay for so long," he said.

"But with rising infections, understandable fatigue with social restrictions, low levels of immunity among the population and the fragile health system, it's vital that it receives more vaccines as soon as possible."

According to Health Minister Jelta Wong, PNG has recorded 9343 cases of COVID-19 and 89 deaths, but half of those are from the last month alone.

Dr Ghebreyesus said the trajectory was "worrying" and the situation "fragile".

Case numbers have dipped somewhat in recent days but low testing rates mean the real figure is certainly much higher.

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32] The official names COVID - 19 and SARS-CoV-2 were issued by the WHO on 11 February 2020.[33] Tedros Adhanom explained: CO for corona, VI for virus, D for disease and 19 for when the outbreak was first identified (31 December 2019).[34] The WHO additionally uses "the COVID - 19 virus" and "the virus Most people (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging) and 5% of patients suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction).[39] At least

Maria van Kerkhove, the WHO 's technical lead for coronavirus response, said 4.4 million Covid - 19 infections had been recorded across the world last week globally and expressed concern about global trends. "This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, where we have While the state of Sao Paulo and the city of Rio de Janeiro rank among the worst in the country for Covid - 19 deaths, both eased restrictions on movement on Monday. Sao Paulo authorities justified the reopening of schools, sports events and construction stores by pointing out that occupancy rates in intensive


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Aside from altruistic concerns, the situation has the potential to directly affect Australia. By the end of last month, more than two-thirds of the COVID-19 cases in Queensland's hospital system, from which Australia's most recent outbreak escaped, came from Papua New Guinea.

There is widespread community transmission in the capital of Port Moresby, all provinces have now recorded infections and more than 270 healthcare workers have been infected.

WHO Papua New Guinea acting representative Anna Maalsen said "intense transmission" was putting "enormous pressure" on hospitals, intensive care units, health workers and communities, leaving the country at a "critical" stage.

She described a chain reaction of sick health workers resulting in fewer people to care for patients even as the healthcare system came under increasing pressure from rising rates of COVID-19.

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A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that China had "offered necessary facilitation for the team's work", and warned against "politicizing" efforts to identify the origins of Covid - 19 . The joint statement echoes comments made by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said "I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing," he said during a news briefing on Tuesday, adding he did not believe the report was "extensive enough." Two months earlier, the WHO chief praised China's response to the pandemic, adding that

WHO welcomes preliminary results about dexamethasone use in treating critically ill COVID - 19 patients. Ten out of 54 countries are currently driving the rise in numbers, accounting for nearly 80% of all the cases. More than 70% of the deaths are taking place in only five countries: Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan. WHO and other partners have supported governments with scaling up health workforce and laboratory capacities and to set up points -of-entry screening at airports and border crossings.

Ms Maalsen said long turnaround times for PCR testing made further complicated attempts to respond quickly but hailed the widespread rollout of rapid antigen tests — cheaper and faster but less accurate — as a "game changer".

Australia's support for PNG, through PPE, healthcare workers and the recent donation of 8000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine was praised but WHO Western Pacific regional director Dr Takeshi Kasai pointed out some countries in the Pacific were yet to receive a single jab.

"In remote Pacific countries, even a few cases, could have a devastating impact," he said.

"As we've heard from the earlier speakers, the COVID-19 situation in Papua New Guinea is extremely challenging right now."

https://twitter.com/UNinPNG/status/1382829361372430337?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
Mr Wong, the PNG Health Minister, said the country's immediate priority was to project health workers but admitted constant work was needed to overcome conspiracies, misinformation and vaccine hesitancy.

"Measures have been introduced, including mask-wearing, social distancing, restrictions on travel, mass gatherings, and passenger limits on public transport," he said.

"However, we know that there are ongoing challenges with compliance.

"We did not expect this to happen overnight, we continue to work to address this.

"Our biggest challenge is seemingly to the late adoption of, or acceptance of the new normal and the disbelief in the disease itself."

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