Media Briefing by Deputy Controller and Acting Secretary of the Department of Health

Thursday 16th July 2020

Deputy Controller and Acting Secretary, Dr Paison Dakulala

Good Afternoon Papua New Guinea and friends in the media,

At midday today, I released a media statement confirming two new cases in Port Moresby and committed to releasing more information when we it becomes available.

This afternoon I stand before you confirming a further 2 more cases identified since midday, bringing a total of 4 new cases in the last 24 hours.  This brings our cumulative total for Papua New Guinea to 15 confirmed cases.

Unfortunately for me as Acting Secretary of the National Department of Health, it saddens me to declare that all 4 of the new cases are staff of the Central Public Health Laboratory.

I will now go through some of the specifics of the 4 new confirmed cases today.

  • Case 12 is a male lab scientist who does GeneXpert testing for COVID-19. He had fever, muscle pain, cough and runny nose 2 days ago. He tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday evening. He is in stable condition and is now isolated at Rita Flynn.
  • Case 13 is a male support staff of CPHL. He is in stable condition. He is now at Rita Flynn for isolation.
  • Case 14 is a female lab scientist responsible for maintaining cold chain, arranging shipment of samples and testing. She is in stable condition and in the process of being transported to Rita Flynn.
  • Case 15 is a male lab scientist responsible for GeneXpert testing. He is stable and will also be isolated at Rita Flynn.
  • When Case 12 was identified, CPHL tested 37 of its staff and cases 13, 14 and 15 were identified.
  • As per standard practice, the rapid response team of the National Capital District (NCDPHA) is now deployed to conduct case investigation, contact tracing, transport of cases in collaboration with the teams from the National Department of Health (NDOH), St John Ambulance and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • The CPHL will undergo a thorough cleaning and disinfection in the coming days to ensure we follow all the infection prevention and control measures.
  • In the interim, testing for COVID-19 samples from provinces will be done at IMR Goroka, Singapore and or Brisbane Australia.
  • The identification of these cases provides evidence that risk of COVID-19 is very high.

It is important that we do not speculate at this stage about Sources of infection. But I have tasked the surveillance and Infection Prevention Control team to investigate immediately.

This morning in a briefing with my cluster team leaders I reminded them that we are at war with COVID-19. For months we have been on the front line, protecting not only the people of our country, but ourselves and our families. These new cases have brought the fight to our shores – and have hit hard in the very heart of our department.

At this point in time I would like to ask that the media and the general public not speculate. We have just received the results today, and are investigating all possible sources of infection.

I emphasize once again, anyone who is experiencing flu like symptoms, fevers, coughs, sore throats, body aches or difficulty breathing must stay at home and immediately call our toll-free line 1800 200.

If you have been diagnosed with other illnesses recently, but displayed some of these symptoms – I urge you to take advantage of the free testing offered by the Government and get COVID-19 ruled out so you keep yourself and your family safe.

I plead with the public to continue to adhere to public health measures that include:

  • Anyone who is sick must stay at home and must stay away from others and call 1800 200 for advice
  • Physical distancing of at least 1.5-meters must be adhered to in all public and wearing of masks if available.
  • All business establishments and offices must have hand washing facilities and make available hand sanitizers for visitors.
  • Temperature checks must be consistently imposed and deny entry to those with symptoms.
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