U.S. Ambassador to PNG, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu Erin McKee, today formally handed over 5,000 GeneXpert SARS-CoV-2 cartridges to Government of Papua New Guinea officials led by Minister of Health & HIV/AIDS, Jelta Wong and Police Commissioner and National Pandemic Response Controller David Manning.
The donation is part of the U.S. government’s continuing commitment to support the Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through its COVID-19 Response in PNG project, implemented by FHI 360, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide the GeneXpert cartridges to health facilities located in the National Capital District to assist with COVID-19 patient identification and contribute to nationwide testing data.
PNG has recorded more than 17,000 cases and 174 deaths since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The government has only tested 131,712 citizens, roughly one percent of the estimated population of nine million, since the pandemic began. Despite low testing rates, epidemiological monitoring based on available surveillance data indicates that widespread community transmission is likely occurring across PNG.
While reiterating the U.S. government’s commitment to supporting PNG’s fight against COVID-19, Ambassador McKee also encouraged citizens to get vaccinated to protect themselves from the disease.
“The U.S. government continues to support the National Department of Health’s vaccine deployment efforts across the country to address vaccine hesitancy, increase demand, and ensure no dose of this critical vaccine is wasted,” Ambassador McKee said. “I encourage all Papua New Guineans to get the vaccine to protect yourself, your family, and your Wantok.”
To date, the U.S. Government, through USAID, has provided $35 million in direct COVID-19 relief and recovery assistance to the Pacific Islands region, including Papua New Guinea. On June 21, the Biden-Harris Administration announced that the United States is sending Pacific Islands countries more life-saving COVID-19 vaccines as part of the recent global allocation of 55 million doses.