Pacific Adventist University rolls out COVID-19 safety plan

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PNG frontline workers and Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AUSMAT) demonstrate how to use PPE equipment in Lae. (Photo credit: DFAT)

Pacific Adventist University (PAU) in Port Moresby has rolled out a safety plan in response to a surge in cases of COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea.

Vice-chancellor Dr Raul Lozano has confirmed that members of the PAU community are among those who have contracted the virus: a female student, a parent of a student and a staff member.

“Fortunately, all these cases are people who reside off-campus, and the few people who had contact with them have been in isolation,” Dr Lozano said. “The PAU campus remains COVID-free, thank God.”

Dr Lozano said PAU introduced a lockdown last Thursday to help protect the university from what was seen as a potential “super-spreader event”: the funeral of former prime minister Sir Michael Somare, which was attended by more than 20,000 people last Friday.

“We have rolled out a safety plan that addresses all areas of concern,” he said. “We believe this will help to keep PAU safe from the virus successfully.”

Australian medical specialists work alongside Papua New Guinea frontline workers to embed safe COVID-19 clinical practices in existing health facilities. (Photo credit: DFAT)

Papua New Guinea Union Mission (PNGUM) communication director Pastor Cameron Wari described the situation as serious.

“The government has issued strict COVID-19 protocols and the Prime Minister announced last night a nation-wide isolation due to the high number of cases recently,” Pastor Wari said.

“It looks to me that the country may be going through another round of lockdown. The [PNGUM] officers were supposed to travel to Port Moresby this week for ADRA meetings and to attend Pastor Yori Hibo’s funeral service tomorrow, however [they are] restricted to travel.

“In Lae, the provincial government reduced large gatherings to no more than 50 people including church gatherings. So it’s quite serious.

“We haven’t yet got news if any Adventist is impacted, however the restrictions may impact [church] programs.”

Central Papua Conference Adventist Education Ministry director Dorcas Kuma said schools were still open at this stage “with strict adherence to the existing COVID rules until [we receive] further official instructions from the national government”.

According to the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, the COVID-19 isolation ward at Port Moresby General Hospital is full and many medical staff have tested positive.

The Australian Government has pledged $A144 million towards COVID-19 vaccinations in PNG and is expected to announce further assistance, including additional healthcare workers.