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Coronavirus: What our correspondents say


NOOSA - I don’t like to be morbid, but the imminent escalation of coronavirus in Australia and, most likely, Papua New Guinea require a reflection.

This modern plague is costing many lives and many more livelihoods. And in Australia its spread, until very recently, was facilitated by our political leaders and their subjugated medical advisers who, for some wild fancy, believed it could be micro-managed.

They persisted insanely in that denialist dream until State leaders, suddenly aware that this terrible scourge could not be nuanced, decided themselves that it must be stamped on before it stamped on us.

I’m a 75-year old male with a number of chronic health problems and a big target painted on my lungs. If I am chosen by this virus I will struggle. But, having lived a long and fulfilling life and, given that oblivion awaits us all, I won’t feel unfairly singled out.

And, as you can see, I also hate to be morbid.

PNG Attitude has been covering the coronavirus challenge with some intensity these past few weeks, and our revered contributors have published some wonderful pieces on the issue and its consequences – and our equally revered commenters have chipped in with their golden observations.

I’ve taken out the editorial scissors to provide readers with a selection of some of the words they wrote.

Arthur Williams

My eldest daughter, who lived in Taskul with me many years ago, and I were talking on the phone during the first week of stringent lockdown for British families. She had a very dry cough for two weeks but was untested despite being a nurse in the mental health section of the National Health Service.

By all accounts, when she resumes working, I am sure she is going to find many new patients unable to mentally cope with the enforced isolation. “Dad,” she said, “the problem is that for many of the last 20 or 30 years children have been schooled in the laissez faire attitude of the liberals controlling their education."

The stoic people of rural PNG show traits of what should be normal human compassion and willingness to help others despite merely existing as subsistence families. I hope that many of PNG’s long suffering villagers can be allowed to escape this latest plague that enshrouds our too often greedy, selfish world.

Philip Kai Morre

Covid-19 is considered a pandemic with every individual suffering from its effect whether social, psychological, economic and spiritual. Can we call it a pandemic in PNG when there is not one case yet? The symptoms of anxiety are far greater than the problem itself. The emergency shut down has disoriented and confused people, creating fear, doubt, uncertainty, frustration, anger and hatred.

There is a popular conspiracy theory among religious fanatics and fundamentalist Christians that coronavirus is a punishment from God. It started in China and quickly spread to other countries because they don't believe in God - and also burn down churches. It quickly spread to USA and Italy because of their sinful activities. Some say it fulfils the prophetic calls of Revelation and book of Daniel in the Old Testament and that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent.

Ian Ritchie

I thought PNG was winning the war to keep the virus out of the country, but a figure of 6,000 ‘persons of interest’ who are apparently not undergoing testing seems very concerning. I wonder what it takes to make it into the category of ‘person of interest’? Is it someone who is showing signs and symptoms, or is it just someone who has recently flown into the country? I also wonder what is being done to isolate those 6,000 people from the communities and in which provinces are they located?

Phil Fitzpatrick

Logic would tell us that the rampant and uncontrolled spread of the virus in Indonesia will inevitably spread to PNG. The first death from the virus has occurred in Sorong in West Papua for instance. It is also highly likely, given PNG’s porous border with Papua that the virus has already arrived but has not been picked up yet. West Sepik is putting measures into place because it is a gateway to Papua. What is happening in Western, another gateway, is unknown but I suspect it is nothing at all.

Alphonse Aime

I hope this lesson brought about by coronavirus will trigger a real desire by the authorities to invest in the healthcare of our people. That the health systems in the country be allocated enough money to provide the kind of services that is only verbalised in policies and politics.

John Mackerell

I'm still working in the PNG health system. Kudos must be given to the government here for taking the right actions rapidly. Admittedly, we do not have sufficient resources for properly treating severely infected people but rational and effective prevention is not rocket science and has been instituted.

Philip Kai Morre

When the state of emergency was declared, logistics and safety equipment in our hospitals were not in place. Nurses went on strike because they can't deal with patients and lack the essential safety equipment and measures. There is no clear clinical direction and disease controllers are still confused as to what sort of mode of health awareness they will carry out. Apart from a few medical officers most of the Covid-19 response team are non-medical and keep giving misleading information. Poor planning leads into more confusion, fear and anxiety.

Paul Oates

In these 'hardly normal' times, it seems like we as a species can't seem to lift ourselves past where we have been. To perceive and lead a large mob of people through a time of crisis takes an extraordinary leader and we have yet to see one emerge. Perhaps it all takes time and sufficient suffering and misery before, in desperation, a change in direction is contemplated as possible or feasible.

Arthur Williams

Big Pharma is working worldwide with several trying drugs used in other treatments to see if they can be used for treating or stopping the current plague. I experienced such a test earlier this century when a tiny area of my chest became itchy and seemed to fit the skin cancer scenario. After examination the doctor asked if i would mind trying a cream that seemed to work to resolve such a problem. I accepted willingly and asked what it was. "Genital wart ointment Arthur!" It proved effective.

Lindsay F Bond

PNG folk ought be fully aware of the PPE (personal protection equipment) in use and now being procured and supplied. There is no harm in asking. There is great potential of harm in not knowing. There is report that PPE is to be supplied to Port Moresby General Hospital and some eight clinics. This follows a strike by nurses at the hospital and appears somewhat a reaction to that.

Jim Moore

During the Depression in Australia, communal groups usually came together based on a common need or issue, rather than kinship or family factors. If and when that issue passed or the need was met, the groups tended to dissolve This was the obvious difference between us and traditional PNG society, where one’s accident of birth formed the basis of a widely extended and lifelong structure within which one lived life. That provided the comfort of knowing who one could rely on, and who one would help in adversity. That seems to me to be a marked difference to our society, where even within a communal group that seems to be self-supporting, the bonds can fracture easily, and one can find oneself up the creek easily

Chips Mackellar

I can't understand panic buying because it is amazing what you can live on when you have to. As a kid during World War II in outback Queensland, when ordinary food supplies were not available, we lived on the same food our parents lived on during the Depression - bread and dripping. And when there was no bread we made our own - sort of that is - it was damper, self-raising flour and water mixed to the consistency of putty and cooked in an oven or, if there wasn't one, in an open fire

I can remember going on patrol with Alan Johnson, and all he ate - breakfast, lunch and dinner - was Sunshine powdered milk. He had patrol boxes full of it, and that was the only food he took with him. He thrived on that, and he is still thriving, at least up until the last kiap reunion. So if you are reading this Alan, you are an inspiration to those who think they can't survive happily in these hard times.

Chris Overland

And once again "the weak suffer what they must". An effective, efficient and honest public service can be a bulwark against the worst excesses of capitalism yet is now regarded by far too many of the political class across the globe as an obstacle to a thriving economy. This is a fallacy relentlessly promoted by the promoters of the neo-liberal experiment. Even in the face of utter disaster, promoters of this fallacy like Donald Trump propose giving huge sums to corporate America while simultaneously implying that it is better for millions of Americans to die from Covid-19 than allow the economy (i.e. the rich and powerful) to take a hit. It is time for us all to wake up to this and other fallacies lying at the heart of neo-liberalism.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

Can you actually get influenza vaccinations in Papua New Guinea?

Dr John Christie

Make sure you have your flu shot this year!! Absolutely essential.
You don't want flu and COVID - 19 together.
Dr John Christie

Lindsay F Bond

Is your government up to speed on averting disaster in pandemic?
Here are two aspects from a ‘titanic’ catastrophe in April of 1912.

Fifteen years after Titanic, Marconi admitted “…my mistake.” “Titanic had used wireless technology (a ‘spark transmitter’) that was rapidly becoming obsolete,” contributing to actual lack of a possible (and lifesaving) communication.
USA sought amends by it’s Radio Act of 1912, which lawmakers passed August 13, 1912. Too late.

On the maiden voyage of Titanic, amidst impending and certain doom, musicians led by giving tune.
Titanic took 2.5 hours to sink, in which time “…social order ruled. Women and children boarded the lifeboats first.”
Of some comparison, on Lusitania which sank in less than 20 minutes, ”…people acted on instinct” and panicked.

In April 2020 and of COVID-19, there are reports of difference in social preparation. Folk in some nations had experienced earlier a need to stem the infliction known as SARS. Contrast is alleged where in other nations, the populations seem unprepared, and politic less forthright on course of action.

Will time so lapse that future generations are amazed in a sense of disbelief?

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