Mercy Ships continues to provide urgently needed PPE supplies and equipment into Papua New Guinea and other countries in the Pacific as COVID-19 cases surge across PNG, with all major hospitals struggling to cope as the Delta variant spreads across the country.

“We’re at the moment barely managing with the existing load. There are surges occurring in all the major centres,” said Dr Gary Nou, head of the emergency medical team at the National Control  entre for COVID-19.

Local health workers are exhausted, and many have been infected. Patients have been forced to lie on the floor in some overcrowded hospitals and vital supplies are running low. “Patients are lying everywhere. The situation is dire,” Dr Nou said.

After having seemingly escaped the worst of the pandemic, cases in PNG surged in March and April this year. Following this spike, numbers dropped again.

Poor testing rates and data collection, especially in remote areas, mean the full extent of the virus spread in PNG will never be known, but hospitals stopped being overwhelmed with cases.

Health authorities continued to warn that there would be another surge. Despite that, complacency set it. And the Delta variant crept across the border from Indonesia. “It’s very concerning, we’ve  ad a lot of deaths. It’s something that we thought would never happen in our country,” Health Minister Jelta Wong said.

Several regions of PNG are now struggling with surging cases, with emergency oxygen supplies repeatedly flown into Goroka last month and the Port Moresby General warning it was reaching “crisis point” and services were “teetering on collapse”. This latest surge is the worst the country has seen.

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