Papua New Guinea to shut pubs, clubs as COVID-19 cases surge

MELBOURNE, March 22 (Reuters) - Papua New Guinea on Monday stepped up pandemic restrictions, ordering pubs, clubs and gaming sites to close from Wednesday, after reporting another jump in COVID-19 cases.

The new curbs came in addition to tighter internal border controls, bans on large gatherings, school closures and mask wearing mandates imposed last week as infections spiked.

PNG on Monday reported 242 new cases as of Saturday, bringing total confirmed cases in the South Pacific nation to 3,359. The death toll remained at 36.

Police Commissioner David Manning, who is running the country’s pandemic response, said part of the country’s challenge was that many of the cases were asymptomatic.

The largest number of new cases were in Port Moresby, the capital, where the health system is struggling to cope, and in the Western Province, the location of the Ok Tedi copper mine which suspended operations last week to protect workers.

To help keep infected people isolated in a country where homes are shared by large families, every province is now expected to have an isolation facility.

“Isolation at home is not encouraged,” Manning said a statement. (Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)