Papua New Guinea declared eight COVID-19 cases as of 22 April, including two cases of local transmission. Considering global trajectories, it is highly that additional cases will be confirmed. A window exists to expedite preparations for a likely outbreak of COVID-19 across the country taking existing weaknesses in governance and basic service delivery. The health system is chronically under-funded and poorly administered leaving WHO to assess Papua New Guinea’s health system as among the world’s ten worst performing systems. Unfortunately, similar challenges and structural impediments are found in non-health related front-line services, such as policing, welfare, community protections, and gender, family and sexual violence services.
The Government has declared a state of emergency and imposed precautionary measures, which include domestic travel restrictions, grounding of international flights, and curfews. It has so far allocated 0.05% of GDP from the 2020 national budget to prepare and respond to any outbreak and is considering additional fiscal measures. Government revenue is expected to suffer as a result of falling commodity prices, in particular, for LNG and oil. In response, the Government is seeking PGK 860 million (1 percent of GDP) from traditional bilateral development partners and international financial institutions to support its health response and stimulate the economy.
The global COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have wide socio-economic impacts. Current challenges faced by Government in managing public finances and debt will be exacerbated by COVID-19 and will represent an additional external shock to the economy, impacting jobs, incomes, and livelihoods for the county’s most vulnerable. At present, PNG has approximately 20% of the internationally recommended trained health care workers necessary to provide an adequate level of health care services under normal circumstances. This lack of capacity is further reflected across Government making the delivery front-line basic services an ongoing challenge for the country and in particular, the 80% of the population living in rural and remote areas already experiencing low levels of development.
Areas of intervention