NOOSA – I’m under the weather this morning, as I have been for some time, but not so much that I wasn’t shocked by the Covid reports coming out of Papua New Guinea over the last 24 hours.
I’ve received a long-awaited communication from my good friend, the author and journalist Daniel Kumbon in Wabag, who wrote words that both confirmed my suspicions and relieved me greatly.
“Yu bai orait. Mi tu mi bin sik inap tupela wik. Mi stat kaikai aste [a week ago] tasol. Sapos mi no kisim vaccine, mi save mi bai bagarap. Nao mi pilim orait.
“I thought we would meet again after our time at the Grand Papua Hotel. Remember? But Covid came along. This miserable pestilence. But I remain hopeful we will meet again so you can have your SP and I can have my glass of red cherries.”
Ah, yes, that day in June 2019 where I was staying at the Grand Papua. So were dozens of politicans. The place was humming with politicians. They in the process of installing James Marape as prime minister.
Daniel and I had the opportunity to speak with Bryan Kramer and others and we sat and talked tupela tasol of his new book and first novel (now published as The Old Man’s Dilemma) while I drank a couple of SP Exports and he imbibed some solution which he confidently asserted was derived from cherries.
Across PNG, provinces are reporting an average of two to 16 deaths a day. We know there is massive underreporting in the country, so what the true tallies are, only heaven knows.
PORT MORESBY - The mortuary at Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH) is full – the 300 bodies there at present are capacity and now bodies are being stored at another unspecified location.
Reluctant relatives are being urged to come and take the bodies for burial.
Dr Garry Nou reports that hospitals in Port Moresby, Mt Hagen and Goroka are barely coping with the surge in cases.
“In NCD, the isolation facilities at Gerehu General Hospital and Taurama Acquatic Centre are full. Patients are lying everywhere. The situation is dire,” he said.
PMGH chief executive Dr Paki Molumi calls for a government directive to stop the use of anti-worm drug Ivermectin to treat Covid patients.
The scale-down of other clinical services at health facilities has been extended by another two weeks. St John Ambulance chief executive Matt Cannon says it’s difficult to cope with the current surge in the National Capital District.
Meanwhile, the PNG Supreme Court and National Court at Waigani have said they have scaled down their operations until 26 October with only urgent court matters to be heard during.
A message circulating on social media encouraging a protest march for Port Moresby today following several government departments announcing they would reject services to unvaccinated citizens was deemed unlawful.
The Covid National Control Centre reports that 10% of PNG’s population has received at least one vaccine dose and 6% is fully vaccinated. These numbers are disputed by UPNG economist Maholopa Laveil who has stated on Twitter this morning that they seem "wildly inaccurate and misleading! 1.4% of total population (@OurWorldInData), and 3.9% of eligible population have received 1 dose".
It's pretty clear the Covid National Control Centre needs to pick up its game.
A Chinese medical team consultant neonatologist, Dr Liu Zhenqui, says his PNG team has vaccinated 8,083 people with Sinopharm across the country.
Paul Barker, executive director of the PNG Institute of National Affairs, says the Covid pandemic should not be used as an excuse to defer elections due in the first half of next year.
Former prime minister Peter O’Neill who keeps popping up like an unflushable turd, claims the PNG government has racked up K50 billion in debt. It would be a lot less if O’Neill returned some of his ill-gotten millions (or should that be billions?).
GOROKA - The Goroka Provincial Hospital Covid morgue is also reported to be full. The Eastern Highlands Provincial Health Authority has been given K1.4 million for Covid response efforts in the province. Goroka has been locked down for two weeks.
MENDI - Southern Highlands Governor William Powi has been told to ‘get on the ground’ in Mendi to personally take stock of the Covid situation. Former PNG Power chairman, Peter Nupiri, a mover and shaker in the province, says the funding allocation of K1 million is insufficient to meet the local response and Powi should come home to do something about it.
MT HAGEN – The lockdown here has been described as ineffective by local level government president Wai Rapa.
Lockdowns have always presented a huge compliance problem in PNG, both because of the nature of community life in the country but also the significant resistance to accepting Covid as real.
Westpac branches in Goroka and Mt Hagen are closing at 1.30pm during the current lockdowns.
KUNDIAWA - The vaccine rollout here has been forced to shut down due to public outrage against the program in Chimbu Province.
You have no idea how much this saddened me, as when I arrived in their mountains as a new chum in 1964, the Chimbu people took good care of me.
Sources: Facebook, NBC News, The National, Pacific Beat, Aus-PNG Network, The Loop, Post-Courier, PNG Haus Bung