Officials announced on Sunday, June 21, that the first coronavirus disease (COVID-19) case in Papua New Guinea in almost two months had been identified. The patient, an Australian Defence Force officer who has been deployed in the country since January, had reportedly been self-isolating in Port Moresby since experiencing flu-like symptoms on June 5. Before Sunday's announcement, Papua New Guinea had not identified a confirmed case of COVID-19 since April 22. However, testing capabilities in the country remain extremely limited and there have been concerns that the disease could be spreading undetected in some areas.
The development comes five days after the Papua New Guinean government lifted its COVID-19 state of emergency on Tuesday, June 16, as it passed a new National Public Health Act covering the long-term response to the pandemic. The move saw some COVID-19 restrictions eased, including the reopening of bars and entertainment venues on specific days and the lifting of bans on sporting activities and inter-provincial travel. However, public gatherings remain limited to 100 people and public events must be pre-approved.
International flights to and from the country are currently severely restricted, with only limited services operating from Port Moresby to Brisbane and Cairns.
As of June 21, health authorities have confirmed nine COVID-19 cases and no associated deaths in Papua New Guinea. Further spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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