Experts warn Papua New Guinea is potential breeding ground for new Covid variants | World news

Experts have warned that the following variant of Covid-19 to brush the world might emerge on Australia’s doorstep, on account of extremely low charges of vaccination charges in Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea is Australia’s closest neighbour, and at its nearest level is simply 4km from Australian territory within the Torres Strait. At numerous factors within the pandemic there have been fears that travellers from PNG might deliver the virus to Australia.

“I’m anxious that PNG is the following place the place a new variant emerges,” stated Adrian Prouse, head of worldwide humanitarian applications on the Australian Pink Cross.

“In PNG lower than 5% [of the adult population is vaccinated], in Indonesia, slightly below one-third. Two international locations proper on our doorstep with vital challenges in getting vaccines into arms.”


Stefanie Vaccher, an epidemiologist with the Burnet Institute who has been based mostly in PNG since final 12 months, echoed this concern.

“In populations which have low charges of vaccination protection, there are extra alternatives for the virus to unfold and mutate. In PNG, the place lower than 4% of the inhabitants are vaccinated, there are loads of alternatives for the virus to mutate and unfold.”

Vaccher stated the Australian authorities and folks ought to care in regards to the unfold of Covid-19 in PNG not simply for what it’d imply for Australia.

“I don’t suppose it ought to matter which nation a variant emerges in for the world to care. Nations have a accountability to suppose globally and the pandemic has revealed how interconnected we’re … It’s necessary not simply because it’s a potential threat for their populations, who may lose hard-fought grounds, or individuals have struggled by means of lockdowns. These are individuals struggling in any nation and their lives are equally as necessary as anybody else.”

Papua New Guinea has been coping with a devastating outbreak of Covid-19 all through 2021.

A health worker at a makeshift Covid testing clinic in Port Moresby this year
A well being employee at a makeshift Covid testing clinic in Port Moresby this 12 months. The pandemic has crippled PNG’s already stretched well being system. {Photograph}: Andrew Kutan/AFP/Getty Pictures

The official dying toll from the virus is 573, with about 35,000 instances, however the true scale of the outbreak is arduous to outline on account of low testing charges and stigma about having the illness. Reviews counsel individuals ask docs to not put Covid-19 as the reason for dying on dying certificates of their family members.

Vaccher stated a research performed in PNG round March 2021 – earlier than the massive wave of the virus – displaying that 24% of healthcare staff at Port Moresby basic hospital already had antibodies to Covid-19 pointed to how widespread and undetected Covid transmission had been.

Covid has additionally crippled Papua New Guinea’s already stretched and under-resourced well being system.

“Proper now PNG is coping with a surge in Delta,” Prouse stated. “If you overlay a surge of Delta with a very fragile healthcare system, excessive charges of sickness, poor charges of entry to sanitation, clear water, you see an increase in hospitalisation and dying.

“We’ve seen the key hospitals in PNG scale down their medical providers. The worrying factor, from a a lot longer-term perspective, we’re beginning to see an increase in points round malaria, TB, different sicknesses, poor maternal well being and toddler well being.”

“One other devastating reality is that maternal mortality has doubled within the final 12 months,” Vaccher stated. “Covid would play into {that a} bit – Covid does have an effect on pregnant ladies. Nevertheless it is additionally on account of the truth that hospitals have shut down, docs and nurses are off work with Covid, persons are too afraid to return to the hospital for appointments.”

Prouse stated that whereas vaccine provide to PNG had been sufficient, and he praised the Australian authorities for doing “a very good job on getting vaccines to our Pacific neighbours”, the problems in PNG have been about “getting arms to vaccines”, with issues round chilly storage, well being messaging and particularly vaccine hesitancy.


Each consultants stated Australia’s messaging round AstraZeneca early within the 12 months didn’t assist individuals in PNG to trust within the vaccine’s security. The Australian authorities donated tens of 1000’s of doses of AstraZeneca to PNG, concurrently it was recommending Australians underneath 60 not get that vaccine as a result of very small threat of blood clots.

“There are severe points with vaccine hesitancy in PNG – individuals simply not keen to get vaccinated for multitudes of causes: considerations across the vaccine, considerations round sorcery, considerations round being stigmatised,” Prouse stated. “These are points which are actually placing Australia vulnerable to the following variant being on our doorstep.

“This is not a hand-out-a-pamphlet-and-walk-away state of affairs. You’ve bought to win hearts and minds over, it’s a must to persuade individuals [the vaccine] is not one thing to be feared and it’s truly going to save lots of their life,” he stated.

“I believe the very best factor is the Australian authorities funding the native organisations who’ve the attain into communities and belief of communities to go in.”

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button