‘Patients are lying everywhere, the situation is dire’
‘In our heads is poetry’: An interview with Les Murray

Covid crisis: What PNG Attitude readers say


NOOSA – Papua New Guinea’s health system, precarious at the best of times, has began to buckle under the remorseless impact of Covid.

And PNG Attitude's coverage both here on the blog and on Twitter has been viewed by thousands of people and received hundreds of comments and observations from readers.

I've managed to read most of these and have curated just a few, which I hope will give the flavour of this past, dreadful week, for Papua New Guineans and their many friends in Australia and around the world.

I’ve catalogued the remarks to provide a little logic and clarity to a sad collection of fragments from a time in Papua New Guinea that is difficult to come to terms with.

There have been many personal tragedies

Covid - couple happy days
Warren and Lina with Ashley

Josh Kulu, Samoa [ex Gerehu]

A deeply sad time for the family as we come to terms with the passing of little sister Lina and her loving hubby Warren. They both leave behind seven year old Ashley. Keep your guard up Papua New Guinea.



Covid - young couple die
Warren and Lina await burial

Tony Tambi Jr, administrative assistant, Food and Agriculture Organisation, Port Moresby

A young couple who died last week to Covid-19 leaving a seven-year old son behind were buried today. May God bless their souls. Guys, Covid is real and is killing people. Get vaccinated and follow the simple niupela pasin [new Covid] rules.

Sebastian Bosco, businessman, Port Moresby

My Dad passed on from Covid-19, I'm here at Wapenamanda Airport right now to receive his body for burial. And it is not a joke. Please take Covid-19 protocols seriously.

Covid - Sebastian Bosco funeral
Sebastian's Dad's funerary vehicle

This government has failed us. Get vaccinated and do not trust people telling you Covid is fake.

Nelson Nombri, field service supervisor, Lae

Two of my friends passed away this month after contracting Covid-19. Both of them not vaccinated. Another two of my friends who have been fully vaccinated contracted Covid-19 but their status is mild. They are in quarantine and are recovering slowly. Get vaccinated Lae people! C-19 is real.

Tali Aualiitia, reporter & presenter, ABC Radio Australia, Melbourne

“If you're not pregnant, don't get pregnant.” A very sobering message from Dr Mary Bagita, Coordinator for Obstetrics and Gynecology at Port Moresby General Hospital given the recent Covid deaths involving pregnant women and their infants.

PNG has extremely low vaccination rates and people are dying. Funeral homes are at capacity. Because the vaccination rates are not where they need to be so warning women not to get pregnant is the next best option to ensure safety.

PNG’s health system is buckling

Covid - PMGH morgue
The morgue at Port Moresby General Hospital

Keith Jackson AM, journalist, Noosa

PNG is truly going through the wars with Covid. Many people still resisting vaccination or disbelieve Covid is real. Port Moresby morgue has put up the 'no vacancies' sign at 300 corpses and the situation across the country looks absolutely chaotic.

Port Moresby hospital says it “is reaching a crisis point with services teetering on collapse unless we are immediately given more support. [We] cannot continue to operate under this pressure”. The hospital epitomises what's happening in many parts of PNG.

Martyn Awayang Namorong, political commentator & advisor, Port Moresby

Desperate plea from the heads of National Capital District Provincial Health Authority, Port Moresby General Hospital and St John Ambulance for people to get vaccinated as the city's health system buckles under pressure.

Covid - press clip city facing lockdownHilda Wayne, journalist, ABC Radio Australia, Melbourne

It's at this stage, more body bags and some people still won't believe it's really happening. Reactionary/damage control leadership now in full swing.

Tony Tambi Jr, administrative assistant, Food and Agriculture Organisation, Port Moresby

We have seen a high death rate in Enga, Southern Highlands, Western Highlands and Hela (upper Highlands) in the past few weeks. It's definitely Covid guys. The national and provincial governments need to carry out awareness to the remote districts as people are dying every day.

Prof Albert Schram, University of Maryland Global Campus, Verona, Italy

The pressure is enormous due to infection risk, isolation, material and staff shortages etc. One challenge is that Covid patients need special care sometimes for weeks, taking the place of many other types of patients.

Burnet Institute for Medical Research, Melbourne

PNG is back on the brink of a Delta disaster with just 1% of the population vaccinated and 70% of people presenting at Port Moresby hospital now testing positive to Covid-19. PNG needs outside help – and very quickly.

Lindsay F Bond, great friend of Oro Province, Brisbane

No matter how we are in Oz, focus ought be upon what is PNG’s rising tide of virus infection. We can only hope the word 'tide' is closer to the real event than the word 'tsunami'.

A tragic, even criminal, political failure

Covid - few smiles not should there be
Smiles hard to come by at this photo op. So they should be

Chris Overland, former public health executive, Adelaide

The hapless citizens of PNG have been consistently failed by their government and, just as bad, they have been failed by the Australian government.

There have been ample warnings given that PNG was incapable of funding, organising and delivering a large scale vaccination program.

I and many others have put forward the suggestion that our military be used to do this work. After all, thanks to our incompetent federal government and equally incompetent and incapable public service, it was necessary to employ an Army general to coordinate our vaccination roll out at the national level.

The situation may still be redeemable if the Australian government can ever shift its attention away from its many internal problems and actually bother about our 'Pacific family'. I won't be holding my breath.

Past performance gives no confidence that the Australian government has any interest in other than being re-elected and keeping various snouts firmly in the public funding trough.

Dr John Christie

What is happening in PNG can only be described as criminal. While it was always going to be difficult to vaccinate the people of PNG, the sheer stupidity and indifference shown by elected leaders at all levels of government and indeed incompetence by health and others in authority is breathtaking.

Covid - Marape shot
Prime minister James Marape was one of the first people in PNG to be vaccinated. Seven months later less than 2% of the population has joined him

My heart goes out to the health workers in hospitals, health centres and the odd still functioning Aid Post, who have been set an impossible task.

Surely there must be a day of reckoning for those who are responsible for this debacle, or will they all walk away from this disaster, as if nothing untoward has happened, as they have from so many less obvious others?

Stephen Charteris, managing director, Partnerships 4 Sustainable Futures, Cairns

What is unfolding in PNG is nothing short of a human tragedy on a significant scale. This is not the first time we have witnessed failures of the state and the inevitable outcomes. This time the failure has been complete and total in its impact.

It is fair to say this is the inevitable outcome of more than four decades of disconnect between the PNG government at almost every level and the thousands of communities it is supposed to serve.

Covid - Payne Wong
Marise Payne and Jelta Wong - in truth, not much to smile or brag about

Marise Payne Australian foreign minister, Canberra

Australia stands with our PNG friends as they respond to a new surge of Covid-19. I advised PNG health minister Wong that Australia will deploy a further AUSMAT medical team in support of PNG's Covid-19 response and we discussed strategies to drive vaccine uptake.

Keith Jackson AM, journalist, Noosa

And so we end the week with a most satisfying day's work: Australia deploys eye dropper to fight bushfire.

Bureaucratic corruption & bungling

Covid - joint statement from health chiefs
Health chiefs' public statement after PNG's first Covid death just three months ago

PNGi investigative website

Rampant corruption and mismanagement in the PNG health department is responsible for the unchecked escalation of deaths caused by drug shortages in hospitals and clinics. None of these issues are new.

As far back as 2002, the Australian government had to step in with K20 million in emergency funding to address a nationwide drug shortage.

Australian support ended though in 2013, after the controversial decision to award a K71 million drug procurement contract to Borneo Pacific.

Stephen Charteris, managing director, Partnerships 4 Sustainable Futures, Cairns

So very sad. The juggernaut rolls on. The cast of the health department mafia are known to Australian authorities. Independent audits since 2002 confirm that the occasional rearrangement of the deck chairs has changed little. Want progress? Start looking at social innovation in health delivery with more emphasis on bottom-up models.

Adj Prof Bill Bowtell AO, health policy strategist, Sydney

Unconscionable that millions of AstraZeneca doses could expire rather than be redirected to, say, PNG and the Pacific. Lives at stake and swift rectification required.

Covid - doses lineReligious fanatics & conspiracy theorists

Philip Kai Morre, drug educator & addiction counsellor, Kundiawa

The Covid-19 roll-out in PNG is a disaster and a dilemma which is beyond control. In the midst of this dreadful crisis, the situation got worse when religious fanatics and some so-called scientists stopped people from getting vaccines.

Conspiracy theorists are spreading false information about Covid and frightening a lot of people. While trying to convince people to be vaccinated we are suffering from people pushing in the opposite direction. The Pandemic Act needs to be amended to permit the arrest of people who spread false information discouraging people from getting treatment.

Vaccine hesitancy & violence

Matt Morris, board leadership advisor, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria, Canberra

A noteworthy quote from a local newspaper: “Half of PNG’s parliamentarians are still not vaccinated despite widespread calls from the government, the business community, churches and civil society for people to get vaccinated.”

Covid - angry crowd Lae
Emmanuel Saem found himself caught in an angry mob stoning a vaccination team in Lae

Dr Pamela Toliman, PNG National Research Institute, Port Moresby

A glimpse into how hard it is to promote Covid-19 vaccination in PNG where fear and misinformation is rife. This video was shared showing a mob harassing staff at a vaccination station in Lae. Very concerned for the safety of staff and also the public wanting to be vaccinated.

Emmanuel Peter Saem Jr, Lae

I was there. Honestly it’s only me trynna explain things but it's only me alone, everyone go against me. It’s definitely a lose for me, after I walked away.

The stones were thrown at the vaccination team unfortunately. Police arrived and dispatched the primitive crowd. Mi bel sori.

Kenny Pawa, mathematics teacher, Port Moresby High School

People are inadequately educated on the vaccine. More awareness should be done by the people in the medical field especially the Institute of Medical Research and the UPNG School of Health Sciences. We no longer believe in the politicians who make decisions which scare many people.

After Covid, the economic crisis

Dane Moores & Jonathon Gurry, World Vision, Melbourne

The socio-economic impacts of Covid-19 are devastating communities in the Pacific and Timor-Leste as much as the virus itself, and sometimes to an even greater extent.

Dad & mum
Economies will recover but the lives of young Ashley, who lost his dad and mum, Warren and Lina, and thousands of other people will not

Almost 60% of respondents had lost their job, lost income or resorted to alternative sources of income due to the economic impacts of the pandemic.

These disruptions are crippling the same industries that are the traditional drivers of Pacific economies – tourism, agriculture, small & medium-sized business, and money sent home by seasonal workers.







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Lindsay F Bond

More is needing to be said, for example, "Morobe Province has, so far, lost five of its teachers to Covid-19".

See: https://www.looppng.com/png-news/morobe-loses-5-teachers-106273

That is, "their bodies are currently at the ANGAU Memorial Hospital morgue."

Lindsay F Bond

All threads of dreads, in summary, funerary,
dooming dysfunction, leading's treads dead?

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