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Papua New Guinea to lift lockdown despite surge in COVID-19 cases

Papua New Guinea to lift lockdown despite surge in COVID-19 cases

Papua New Guinea's coronavirus outbreak has spread beyond the capital, Port Moresby. (AFP/SAEED KHAN)

MELBOURNE: Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape is pressing ahead with plans to lift lockdown measures in the Pacific nation this week, even as a recent sharp spike in coronavirus infections worries health officials.

Marape said a two-week lockdown in the capital of Port Moresby would be lifted from Wednesday (Aug 12), despite the country's reported cases of COVID-19 doubling over the past week.

"Whilst the spread is there, we have to adapt to living with COVID-19 this year, instead of taking on drastic measures," Marape told a news conference on Monday.

PNG had a total of 214 cases and three deaths as of Sunday, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported, up from 104 cases and one death the previous week.

More worryingly, WHO said it was likely the real infection numbers were much higher, given low rates of testing throughout the country.

"Testing in all provinces remains critically low, therefore ongoing transmission in other parts of the country is a possibility as population mobility continues," it said. 

"Testing needs to increase substantially to understand the extent of transmission."

Like many of its Pacific neighbours, Papua New Guinea appeared to escape the early clutches of the pandemic. But new cases in the past week were reported in nine provinces, including remote areas of the country, WHO said, adding the bulk of those had been traced back to Port Moresby.

The capital was placed in a two-week lockdown on Jul 28, with only essential businesses to operate, schools closed, and transport services stopped.

The government had halted entry for travellers except those arriving by air, late last month.

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Source: Reuters

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