The overwhelming concern is largely due to a lack of accurate information about the virus and hysteria caused by conspiracy theories and misinformation. Those testing positive are subject to intense stigmatisation, especially when isolating at home with mild symptoms.
More than 15,000 patients with COVID-19 have been registered in the country so far. Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 are often fearful and anxious, especially considering the stigma associated with COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea. This stigma is mainly based on the fact that it is a disease which is new and unknown—as with many new and unknown health issues, people often hide their illness to avoid discrimination, which prevents them from getting tested and seeking healthcare.
"We hired and trained new staff members a few weeks back to provide clinical care in Rita Flynn makeshift hospital where COVID-19 patients were treated," says Shah Khalid, MSF Project Coordinator. "But while we started activities, the number of patients needing hospitalisation decreased. The authorities decided to limit COVID-19 care to two other facilities in Port Moresby and closed the ward.”
The solution: providing patient education and counselling sessions by phone instead of in person.