Australia to help PNG with COVID outbreak

Australia to help PNG with COVID outbreak

Australia will send Papua New Guinea 8,000 COVID vaccines, along with medical support staff, the Morrison government announced on Wednesday, 17 March.

UnitingWorld’s partner in the region, the United Church of Papua New Guinea (UCPNG) has welcomed the move.

Bena Seta manages UCPNG’s community service projects. Some of these include providing training to health workers, trying to increase the number of sanitation stations in schools, and encouraging social distancing, hand washing and the wearing of masks.

Papua New Guniea managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic until recently. One of the problems that the nation is experiencing is the spread of skepticism regarding the virus.

“In the Highlands there are strong beliefs about witchcraft and people have traditionally used poisoned arrows and foods against others, so people are very suspicious of anything that is injected into the body,” Bena said.

“A focus on the book of Revelation and the apocalypse complicate people’s understanding of the pandemic, and there is also just not a great deal of awareness about modern medicine or the use of vaccines in general.”

The Australian government previously announced funding for the Pacific region to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape warned on Monday that the country faced a possible infection rate, “of about one person to three or four.”

“The number is quite staggering, if we don’t do [a] corrective response to this, our health system will be clogged and we won’t be able to sustain it,” Mr Marape said.

The ABC has reported that the potential COVID spread from Papua New Guinea, one of Australia’s closest neighbours, has the Morrison government concerned.

To donate to UnitingWorld’s COVID efforts, visit the Lent Event website here.


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