PORT MORESBY (The National/Pacnews) —  Eleven new coronavirus deaths were reported in Papua New Guinea on Friday and Saturday, raising the country’s death toll to 51.

Health secretary and Covid-19 Deputy Controller Dr Osborne Liko said Papua New Guinea is on the verge of been declared a coronavirus red zone as infections surge out of control nationwide.

“I am feeling uncomfortable at the rate Papua New Guineans are being infected and killed by the virus. Infections have surged by about 50%, deaths are up by about 40% in the country within seven days.

“People, please Covid-19 is not a joke. We are heading for the red zone. You have to take this Nupla Pasin [New Normal] and non-pharmaceutical protocols outlined in the 28-day National Isolation Strategy imposed by the controller seriously. And, in the next seven days from now, everyone must seriously play their part to help check the spread of the Covid-19,” he added.

Liko said deaths surged by 405 in seven days on Saturday.

“Last Saturday (March 20), only 36 deaths were reported and during the week we reported 13 deaths bringing a total of 51 dead on Saturday,” he said.

“And on March 20, confirmed total infections was at 2,714, and on Saturday 5,205 cases were registered.

“The real issue is, if you are not serious about this deadly public health threat, where do we go?

“As of today, seven days from  March 20, hospitals nationwide are filling up.

“Port Moresby General Hospital has 18 beds for Covid-19 patients and 16 beds are occupied.

“There are no beds in the intensive care unit. Of the six beds in ICU, four beds are occupied.

“And in the next seven days, if we are not careful and adhere strictly to the [safety protocols], there will be no beds for new patients.

“And that is in PMGH.

“Angau Memorial Hospital in Lae is now closed because as 50% of the health staff have been infected with the Covid-19.”

Liko said heath workers nationwide are stressed and burned out.

“At the Rita Flynn isolation center in Port Moresby, of the 43 beds, 39 are occupied which is about 95% occupancy,” he said.

“And with the number of cases going in, we will run out of beds.”

Liko said patients who have recovered within 14 days are being sent home “but then home isolation is another challenge as we are Melanesians living with large families.”

On Friday, all the deaths were recorded in the National Capital District —  four men and two women aged between 28 and 73.

They were admitted to the ICU until their death, says Covid-19 National Pandemic Response spokesman Chief Superintendent Dominic Kakas in a media statement.

He said 220 more new infections were reported on Friday and the figure rose to 5,205 on Saturday.

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