COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea: information, expert commentary and media

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Papua New Guinea is now 655 (30/11/2020). Although reported case numbers remain low, low testing rates, particularly outside of Port Moresby, means there is concern the actual number of infections may be higher. If the virus begins to spread within PNG, it will be difficult to contain given the poor health infrastructure in the country and the limited capacity of the state. Its spread and impact will highlight the capacity of households to respond and adapt their livelihood and farming systems to the pandemic. It will also reflect how social and economic inequalities within communities’ structure levels of vulnerability. Those living in high density informal settlements within the major towns and cities seem particularly vulnerable.

Health workers going on patrol in New Ireland

In an attempt to keep people informed on the spread of COVID-19 in PNG and its impacts, we are providing links to websites and articles that provide useful and relevant information (compiled in reverse chronological order). The content and views expressed in these articles are those of the authors, and not those of the Pacific Livelihoods Research Group.


ANU. (2020). COVID-19 and the Pacific.

Alders, R., Crimp, S., Robins, L., Davila, F. and Bourke, M. (2020). Learning from the COVID-19 crisis to strengthen future food and nutrition security in the Indo-Pacific. Development Policy Blog, ANU. 

Arahan, R., Doan, D., Dornan, M., Munoz, A. Parsons, K., Yi, S. & Vergara-Hegi, D. (2020). Pacific Island Countries in the Era of COVID-19 : Macroeconomic Impacts and Job Prospects. Washington, D.C. World Bank Group.

Bailey, R.‐L. (2020). Border Closures: Experiences of Ni‐Vanuatu Recognized Seasonal Employer Scheme Workers. Oceania. 90: 68-74.

Banasi, R. & Wolfers, E.P. (2020). Madang Art Maniacs. Oceania. 90: 21-24.

Bourke, R.M. & Kanua, M.B. (2020). Potential response to COVID-19 epidemic in PNG: support for food production. Development Policy Centre, ANU. 

Butler, J.R.A., Davila, F., Alders, R., Bourke, R.M., Crimp, S., McCarthy, J., McWilliam, A., Palo, A.S.M., Robins, L., Webb, M.J., van Wensveen, M., Sanderson, T. and Walker, D. (2021). A rapid assessment framework for food system shocks: lessons learned from COVID-19 in the Indo-Pacific region. Environmental Science and Policy. 117:34-45. 

Dean, M.R.U. (2020). COVID‐19 and Fiji: A Case Study. Oceania. 90: 96-106.

Eickelkamp, U. & Chao, S. (Eds.). (2020). Oceanic Societies in COVID‐19. Oceania. 90(S1).

Gounder, R. (2020). Economic Vulnerabilities and Livelihoods: Impact of COVID‐19 in Fiji and Vanuatu. Oceania. 90: 107-113.

Lau, J., Sutcliffe, S & Hungito, W. (2020). Lived experiences of COVID-19: impacts on an atoll island community, Papua New Guinea. ARC CoE in Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University.

Leweniqila, I. & Vunibola, S. (2020). Food Security in COVID‐19: Insights from Indigenous Fijian Communities. Oceania. 90: 81-88.

PNG National Operation Centre for COVID-19. (2020). Official COVID-19 website.

Randin, G. (2020). COVID‐19 and Food Security in Fiji: The Reinforcement of Subsistence Farming Practices in Rural and Urban Areas. Oceania. 90: 89-95.

Robins, L., Crimp, S., Van Wensveen, M., Alders, RG., Bourke, RM., Butler, J., Cosijn, M., Davila, F., Lal A, McCarthy, JF., McWilliam, A., Palo, ASM., Thomson, N., Warr, P. & Webb, M. (2020). COVID-19 and food systems in the Indo-Pacific: An assessment of vulnerabilities, impacts and opportunities for action. ACIAR Technical Report 96, Canberra.

The report above examines the existing food system vulnerabilities being exposed or amplified by the COVID-19 shock, and looks at how this information can be used to inform future research and development to support food systems resilience in the Indo-Pacific. The COVID-19 crisis is examined through the lens of food and nutrition security, primarily from the perspective of smallholder farmers and fishers.

Troolin, D. (2020). Heterotopia in Melanesia: Reactions to COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea. In: Ryan, M. J. (ed). COVID-19: Volume I: Global Pandemic, Societal Responses, Ideological Solutions. Routledge.

Waula Bablis, G. (2020). The Great Mask Debate – To Wear or Not to Wear?. Oceania. 90: 25-29.

WHO. (2020). COVID-19 preparedness & response in Papua New Guinea.

Wikipedia. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic in Papua New Guinea.

Kora, B. (2021, 20 January). Small number of PNG workers heading to Australia for seasonal work first time since start of COVID-19 pandemic.

Samoglou, E., Carreon, B. & Doherty, B.  (2021, 6 January). Life without Covid: the nations that have sidestepped the pandemic so far.

Doherty, B. (2020, 3 December). Covid could derail efforts to eradicate malaria in Pacific, health experts warn.

Harriman, B. & Kora, B. (Accessed 2020, 13 November). Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister defends multi-million-dollar plans to find COVID ‘cure’.

Dwyer, P. D. & Minnegal, M. (Accessed 2020, 30 October). COVID-19 and Facebook in Papua New Guinea: Fly River Forum. Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies.

Kabilo, P. (Accessed 2020, 26 October). COVID-19 Impacts on the Informal Economy in Wewak, Papua New Guinea.

McLure, H. (2020, 21 October). COVID-19 – the Pacific response: 21 October.

Rovoi, C. (2020, 21 October). Pacific leaders target unequal impacts of Covid-19 on vulnerable in region.

Doherty, B. (2020, 13 October). Papua New Guinea to fit ankle monitors to arrivals in Covid quarantine.

UNICEF. (2020, 9 October). Papua New Guinea launches its COVID-19 Education Emergencies Response and Recovery Plan.

Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities. (2020, 9 October). Epidemiological Risk: COVID-19 and the Pacific.

Aualiitia, T. (2020, 6 October). WHO fast-tracking 40,000 new rapid COVID-19 tests to Papua New Guinea.

Radio New Zealand. (2020, 2 October). Another Covid case suggests community transmission in PNG’s Western Province.

McClure, H. (2020, 30 September). COVID-19 – The Pacific response: 30 September.

Steketee, M. (2020, 11 September). Just a matter of time for PNG?

McClure, H. (2020, 9 September). COVID-19 – The Pacific response.

Radio New Zealand. (2020, 6 September). PNG’s East Sepik records first Covid-19 case.

Schmidt, E. & Fang, P. (2020, September). Agri-food trade trends in Papua New Guinea: Reflections on COVID-19 policies and dietary change.

Newton Cain, T. & Carreon, B. (2020, 30 Aug). ‘We are in dire straits’: Pacific stands on Covid brink amid surging infection.

Wilson, C. (2020, 29 August). Pacific’s fight against Covid-19 hamstrung by lack of clean water.

Howes, S. & Surandiran, S. (2020, 24 August). What are Pacific governments spending on in response to COVID-19?

Fainu, K. (2020, 22 August). The return of shell money: PNG revives old ways after Covid’s blow to economy.

AFP-SBS. (2020, August 21). China questioned over claims coronavirus vaccine was trialled on workers in Papua New Guinea.

Doherty, B. (2020, 21 August). Papua New Guinea bans Chinese mine staff ‘given experimental Covid-19 vaccine’.

Darmadi, M. (2020, 19 August). PNG health Authorities turn to e-Health to provide medical training to outer provinces during COVID-19 pandemic.

Radio New Zealand. (2020, 14 August). Two more Covid-19 cases confirmed in PNG overnight.

McClure, H. (2020, 12 August). COVID-19 – the Pacific response.

Whiting, N. (2020, 12 August). Papua New Guinea is walking a tightrope on coronavirus, so it’s abandoned lockdowns.

Pacific Women. (Retrieved 2020, 12 August). A summary of Pacific Women’s Webinar on Women’s Economic Empowerment and COVID-19.

Howes, S. & Sinopane, J. (2020, August 7). PNG’s job crisis and COVID-19.

Doherty, B. (2020, 6 August). Papua New Guinea’s massive Ok Tedi mine closes as COVID cases spread to new areas.

Whiting, N. (2020, 1 August). PNG’s coronavirus spike appears to have been triggered by a COVID-19 lab tester. Now a hospital is the epicentre.

Business Advantage PNG. (2020, July). Economic Update on Papua New Guinea.

World Bank Group. (2020, July). In the Time of COVID-19: From Relief to Recovery.

ABC Radio National. (2020, 27 July). PNG calls on World Health Organization and military for help to deal with coronavirus.

Doherty, B. (2020, 27 July). Coronavirus cases in Papua New Guinea double in days.

Togiba, L. & Doherty, B.  (2020, 25 July). We don’t have enough beds: PNG hospitals braces for Covid-19 surge. 

Whiting, N. & Kora, B. (2020, 23 July). Coronavirus cases rise in Papua New Guinea, prompting fears for vulnerable health system

Graue, C. (2020, 22 July). PNG bracing for new restrictions after eight new COVID-19 cases confirmed.

Radio New Zealand. (2020, 21 July). Two more Covid-19 cases in PNG capital

Doherty, B. (2020, July 20). First coronavirus-linked death in Melanesia as Papua New Guinea outbreak spreads.

Kabuni, M. (2020, 17 July). COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea

Griffith Asia Institute (2020). COVID-19 Aid to the Pacific Tracker.

McGarry, D., & Cain, T. S. (2020, July 8). Coronavirus in the Pacific: Weekly briefing.

Eriksson, H., Ride, A., Notere Boso, D., Sukulu, M., Batalofo, M., Siota, F. & Gomese, C. (2020, July 7). Changes and adaptations in village food systems in Solomon Islands: A rapid appraisal during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ewart, R. (2020, June 23). Antibody test results in PNG raise concerns about true COVID-19 case numbers.

Asia & the Pacific Policy Society. (2020, June 18). Mapping the Pacific COVID-19 response.

Kopel, E. (2020, June 12). The impact of COVID-19 on livelihoods in Papua New Guinea.

Maclellan, N. (2020, June 11). Smart harvest: Pacific islanders are responding to disruptions to food security with cultural solidarity and new technology.

WHO. (2020, May 27). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Pacific.

Sanderson, T., Chapman, G., Walker, D. & Horne, P. (2020, May 18). Food systems security, resilience and emerging risks in the Indo-Pacific in the context of COVID-19: a rapid assessment.

Kabuni, M. (2020, May). COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Papua New Guinea: the state of emergency cannot fix years of negligence.

Goro, J. (2020, May). The impact of coronavirus pandemic on access to public transport in Papua New Guinea.

Hukula, F. (2020, May). The potential impact of COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable groups.

Kopel, E. (2020, May). The impact of COVID-19 on livelihoods in the informal economy in Papua New Guinea.

Henderson, K., & Kakinuma Hassan, A. (2020, May 5). Responding to COVID-19 in PNG: NGOs and health workers.

ABC Radio National. (2020, May 2). PNG and coronavirus.

Fainu, K. (2020, April 30). We were behind the eight ball: Papua New Guinea’s health minister on COVID-19.

Phillips, G., & Cox, M. (2020, April 28). COVID-19 and emergency care in the Pacific.

Clarke, M. (2020, April 28). Coronavirus could see Papua New Guinea, Indonesia become failed states. ABC.

Bourke, M., & Kanua, M. (2020, April 21). Potential response to COVID-19 in PNG: support for food production.

Minnegal, M., & Dwyer, P.  (2020, April 16). God, health and COVID-19 in remote Papua New Guinea.

Fainu, K. (2020, April 11). ‘We have nothing’: Papua New Guinea’s broken health system braces for COVID-19.

Forsyth, M., & Peake, G. (2020, April 8).  Thinking collectively, acting individually: governance in a time of COVID-19.

Maclellan, N. (2020, March 25).  “God will protect us, but he still wants us to wash our hands!”

Allen, B. (2020).  Coronavirus COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea.

EMTV. (2020).

Loop Pacific. (2020).

Post Courier Online. (2020).

The National. (2020).

Health clinic in remote Western Province, PNG. 1.
Health clinic in remote Western Province, PNG. 2.
Health clinic in remote Western Province, PNG. 3.
Health clinic in remote Western Province, PNG. 4.
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