SYDNEY (Reuters) – Papua New Guinea on Thursday reported 11 new deaths linked to COVID-19, a larger than usual increase for the Pacific island nation, which may support concerns that an outbreak in recent months may overwhelm its fragile health system.
The additional deaths were logged in the 24 hours to midday Wednesday but occurred over the span of nearly a month prior, the PNG COVID-19 National Pandemic Response said in a statement, taking the country’s coronavirus death toll to 82.
Australia has said that the coronavirus statistics produced by the PNG authorities vastly underestimate the extent of the crisis because its northern neighbour does not do mass testing.
The country reported 204 new infections in the 24 hours to Wednesday, taking its total to 9,188 cases.
PNG is facing a crisis as its health systems grapple with a steep rise in infections while also facing delays to its vaccination programme, which relies on supplies from the global COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme.
The country, which has a population of about 9 million, has started a modest vaccination programme using just over 8,000 doses sent by Australia.
It was due to receive 588,000 doses of vaccine produced by AstraZeneca Plc through COVAX by the end of June before export restrictions were placed on vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India amid a deadly second wave of local infections.
The country’s government nonetheless told Reuters last week that it expected a shipment this week.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye. Editing by Gerry Doyle)