Papua New Guinea currently sees a significant increase in severe cases of COVID-19 infection and widespread, uncontrolled transmission of the virus, causing the World Health Organisation to issue an international appeal for medical assistance to the country.  Johanniter International Assistance is now joining the national St John Ambulance sister organisation on the ground with volunteers from the German and Austrian JOIN members.

St John Ambulance Papua New Guinea is setting up a field hospital with 296 beds on behalf of the government. The hospital‘s main purpose is to isolate and care for patients suffering from COVID-19. The Australian government is providing St John with financial resources.

“The new cases are associated with more severe illness than previously seen in 2020. We are facing the potential collapse of health services in the capital Port Moresby and around the country. A large number of hospital workers – over 120 staff – at Port Moresby General and National Capital District Health Authority (NCDPHA) are now positive for COVID-19”, reports Matthew Cannon, Chief Executive Officer of St John Ambulance Papua New Guinea. For this reason, St John asked Johanniter for a medical support team.

Christian Gatniejewski (left) during the 2019 Mozambique mission. Together with the other aid workers, he prepares for medical support in Papua New Guinea. [Picture by Jasmin Vogel, Johanniter International Assistance]

German medical team leaves on Sunday

On Sunday 11th April, Johanniter will send a team of seven people to Port Moresby. The team consists of volunteers from Germany and Austria; a doctor, four paramedics and two nurses.

“We are very happy to be able to support the work of our sister organisation St John Ambulance in this difficult situation. This is also a special assignment for our dedicated helpers in a challenging time for everyone,” says Magdalena Kilwing, Head of the Emergency Response Desk at Johanniter International Assistance.

After their arrival in Port Moresby, the Johanniter team, together with the medical team of St John Ambulance, will isolate COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate symptoms and provide medical care at the “Florence Nightingale COVID Centre” over the next four weeks.

Background

Papua New Guinea has experienced a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases across the country since February 2021. As of 4th April 2021, a total of over 7,000 confirmed cases, including 61 deaths, have been reported. The total number of reported cases and deaths is likely to be significantly underestimated due to under-reporting and very limited testing across the country. 19 of Papua New Guinea’s 22 provinces have already reported COVID-19 cases.