For most of the pandemic, aggressive restrictions helped Papua New Guinea avoid a massive coronavirus outbreak. It reported just 1,275 cases by February’s end, CNN reports.
But cases have more than tripled in the past month in the Pacific Island nation and now top 4,660. Limited testing means the true toll is likely much higher.
While the figure may sound low, consider that the nation’s already fragile health system has just ~500 doctors to cover 9 million people.
Prime Minister James Marape has warned of “rampant community transmission.” Hospitals are packed, and medical oxygen is in short supply.
- Lately, restrictions have been weak or unenforced. ~85% of the populationlives off subsistence farming, making lockdowns a challenge.
- Recent funeral gatherings for a former prime minister may have aided the spread.
Skepticism and misinformation remain a major issue. “I used to think Covid-19 wasn’t real until two days ago,” says one 55-year-old patient in an emergency ward, The Guardian reports.