West Sepik seeks help to manage COVID-19 and NCC responds promptly


Health authorities in West Sepik in Papua New Guinea are seeking help to manage the COVID-19 pandemic as the number of cases rise.

They are also advocating for provincial lockdown or a partial lockdown to prevent a possible second surge of COVID-19 cases. It had a lock-down early this year when it had its first surge.

Director for WSP Public Health and Incident Manager Dr Trevor Kelebi said in a situation report submitted to the National Coordination Centre (NCC)that the six-bed isolation ward at the Sandaun Provincial Hospital was full throughout the month of August and is managed by one health extension officer and junior nursing staff and need added clinical manpower support.

“We are advocating for a provincial lock-down during Provincial Control Centre (PCC) or a partial lockdown with strict compliance to Niupela Pasin, vaccination and mandatory swabbing,’’ said Dr Kelebi.

He said West Sepik has so far confirmed a total of 594 positive cases of which seven died, including two in the month of August, and they are expecting a surge in the coming weeks

It is also difficult to know the real situation in the province now due to low testing, especially with swabbing hesitancy which poses a challenge to effective contact tracing. The other big challenges facing West Sepik’s response to COVID-19 lies in high hesitancy towards vaccination and lack of adherence to Niupela Pasin.

“A total of 490 vials (10 doses per vial) of AstraZeneca vaccines were received on 22 April 2021 which expired on the 29th of July, 2021 and additional 200 were received in early August which will expire on 30 September, 2021,’’ he said.

Furthermore, he said all health facilities and business houses’ attempts to strengthen the ‘no mask, no entry’ policy at all entry points remains a challenge due to so many social media critics having a big influence on the public.

Together with the Sandaun Provincial Inter-Agencies, the Provincial Health Authority has submitted the West Sepik Surge Plan on 04 August, 2021 to NCC and relevant government agencies.

With its close proximity to the border with Indonesia and the threat of current or future outbreaks of epidemics or pandemics, the WS PHA is also seeking a new isolation and quarantine site to be constructed on state land. Currently, they are renting a private property for quarantine and isolation for COVID-19 asymptomatic or mild cases with their contacts which the WSPHA says is not sustainable.

In response to the WS PHA request, the Deputy Controller for the National Pandemic Response, Dr Daoni Esorom, has confirmed receiving the WS PHA report at the National Coordination Centre and will be providing support to the PHA.

Dr Daoni confirmed that an Emergency Medical Team is now being put together with the clinical management and the Emergency Medical Team clusters at the NCC that will consist of an emergency specialist doctor, four clinical nurses and an Infection Prevention Control (IPC) nurse to support the PHA team respond to the surge.

He also confirmed that WHO has three staff already on the ground in Vanimo to support the PHA.

“We will support the WS PHA team to respond to the current surge. Some of the positive samples have been sent to Melbourne for genomesequencing which will confirm whether they are delta variant cases.

“I strongly urge all the PHAs to be prepared for any surges in the delta cases. This is the time that all PHAs must be preparing themselves for surges in the delta variant cases. I urge all the PHAs to increase the surveillance, testing, IPC and to have in place enough ICU beds to respond to any delta variant cases. All hospitals must have enough oxygen in the ICU and hospitals to respond to any increase in the number of cases,” Dr Daoni said.