In Brief

How Papua New Guinea outshone its richer neighbours with coronavirus response

The Pacific nation has recorded just seven deaths since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak

While New Zealand has attracted international attention and praise for its response to Covid-19, a far poorer neighbouring nation may have managed an even more impressive result.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has a population almost twice as big yet has recorded just seven deaths and 645 cases, according to latest figures - compared with 25 deaths and 2,040 cases in New Zealand.

The official figures come with a health warning, however. “The actual rate of infection is likely far higher,” says The Guardian, “with dangerously low rates of testing across the country.”

Even so, the numbers are impressive by European standards. Increased testing in response to a recent outbreak unearthed just “12 more cases from a significant cluster” in the PNG province of West New Britain, bringing the total number of confirmed infections in the area to 42, Radio New Zealand reports.

By contrast, the UK has recorded an average of 18,000 cases per day over the past week.

PNG’s relatively remote location in the southwestern Pacific is likely to have played a large role in its relatively low caseload, although unlike New Zealand, it does have a land border - a long, porous frontier with Papua, part of Indonesia. It is also significantly poorer, with GDP per capita standing at around $2,700 (£2,021), compared with $42,000 (£31,440) in New Zealand.

Although PNG avoided a full lockdown, the country’s government banned domestic travel, outlawed the sale of alcohol, prohibited public gatherings and introduced a curfew. “People were instructed to stay indoors between 10pm and 5am unless they needed urgent medical attention or had to go out due to an emergency,” says the Asia and the Pacific Policy Society.

In September, the World Health Organization said PNG was “taking the threat of the pandemic seriously” and praised its government for “strengthening the country’s health system and engaging communities to keep them safe from the virus”.

Ministers also imposed strict controls on incoming visitors, making “ankle bracelets mandatory for international workers arriving into the country on designated charter flights”, says the Daily Mail. The tags have to be worn during a two-week quarantine.

Other elements of the country’s response have been more eccentric, however.

In October, Prime Minister James Marape “defended plans to give millions of dollars to a local company for the development of an unknown Covid-19 treatment”, Australia’s ABC News reports. Infectious disease experts expressed doubts about the plan - and the previously unknown company that received the £2.2m grant.

Recommended

Covid-19: everything you need to know about coronavirus
coronavirus.jpg
Coronavirus

Covid-19: everything you need to know about coronavirus

Indian Wells tennis cancelled - is Wimbledon in danger?
Novak Djokovic kisses the winner’s trophy after beating Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final
In Brief

Indian Wells tennis cancelled - is Wimbledon in danger?

Coronavirus impact on sport: ‘serious concerns’ for Olympics
Officials at the Japan Coast Guard base in Yokohama where a cruise ship is in quarantine following an outbreak of coronavirus
In Brief

Coronavirus impact on sport: ‘serious concerns’ for Olympics

One in ten Brits had Covid-19 antibodies by December
A Covid-19 vaccine is prepared at the Princess Royal Sports Arena.
The latest on . . .

One in ten Brits had Covid-19 antibodies by December

Popular articles

How scientists developed a Covid-19 vaccine in record time
A nurse prepares a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine
In Focus

How scientists developed a Covid-19 vaccine in record time

Stalin-themed kebab shop closes after one day
Tall Tales

Stalin-themed kebab shop closes after one day

Who are the richest people in the world?
Elon Musk
In Focus

Who are the richest people in the world?

Free 6 issue trial then continue to