MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Papua New Guinea reported rising coronavirus infections on Saturday, continuing a surge that highlights the need for tougher social distancing restrictions taking effect on Monday.
Internal border controls will be tightened, personal movement restricted and mask wearing made mandatory in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has been overwhelming the public health system.
The authorities in the Pacific island nation of 9 million people said they will ban mass gatherings, close schools and may order burials in a “designated mass grave”.
PNG has recorded hundreds of new daily COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Saturday’s announcement of 295 infections for Thursday and 132 for Friday brings confirmed cases to 3,085 with 36 deaths, but health experts believe the true numbers are likely much higher.
“Due to a high number of cases being detected, it is difficult sometimes to get everyone to isolate in a designated facility so please if you are told to isolate at home make sure you do that,” Controller of the National Pandemic Response and Police Commissioner David Manning said in a statement.
In a separate statement, Manning said that Richard Mendani, a member of parliament representing the Kerema Open electorate, had died after being infected with the novel coronavirus.
“Sadly, his passing comes one year to the day since the first COVID-19 infection was detected in our country,” Manning said.
A New Zealand Defence aircraft on Saturday delivered four tonnes (8,800 pounds) of personal protective equipment, health authorities said, including hand sanitiser, goggles, biohazard bags and surgical masks.
Neighbouring Australia has pledged 8,000 doses of the AstraZeneca PLC vaccine for PNG health workers.
Additonal reporting by Sonali Paul; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Kim Coghill
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