Mass Burials Authorised Amid Papua New Guinea COVID-19 Surge

By Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia, with a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him at
October 28, 2021 Updated: October 28, 2021

Papua New Guinea (PNG) authorities have commenced the mass burial of 200 COVID-19 victims to relieve pressure on the Port Moresby General Hospital mortuary after the COVID-19 outbreak in the country worsened.

The mortuary was designed to hold 60 bodies around 30 years ago. However, local PNG media The National reported that National Capital District (NCD) Governor Powes Parkop said the mortuary was currently full, with at least 300 bodies stacked on top of each other.

“Three more (freezer) containers have been installed to store the bodies, and a mass burial is being planned this week,” Parkop said. “People are dying on arrival (at the hospital) and those who died despite being under the care of the hospital’s isolation centre.”

The bodies were reportedly brought from hospital wards and homes to the mortuary as COVID-19 cases surge amid the country’s third wave of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.

The mass burial was scheduled for Oct. 28 and 29 and was approved by the country’s chief pandemic response controller, David Manning, according to The National.

City officials will also reportedly help the hospital with logistical support to carry out the mass burial safely.

“We will also step in to ensure space was given for the burial,” Port Moresby City Manager Bernard Kipit said.

Papua New Guinea is a culturally and linguistically diverse country of about nine million people, with many living in traditional remote villages.

Jonathan Pryke, director of the Pacific Islands Program with the Lowy Institute, told that less than two percent of Papua New Guinea’s adult population was fully vaccinated.

“Seven out of 10 people presenting at Port Moresby’s largest hospital with symptoms are now testing positive,” Pryke said.

“Clearly, the PNG’ health system is buckling under the strain of the pandemic.”

Australia Increases Aid

Australia has increased its aid to the country’s COVID-19 response at the request of Papua New Guinea.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced on Oct. 27 that a further 14 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel were sent to Papua New Guinea, along with an additional Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT).

“The team will support the Papua New Guinea-led response through the allocation of extra health specialists and medical supplies across the health system in response to the current surge in cases,” Payne said.

Meanwhile, the ADF health and logistics specialists will work with Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) vaccination teams to help increase immunisation across the country, an Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade release said.

ADF logisticians will assist the PNGDF with forecasting, ordering and transportation of supplies, while health specialists will provide additional training and advice on administering vaccines, the statement read.

“Tackling COVID-19 is a global challenge, and we are proud to contribute additional specialist capacity and expertise, with our ADF personnel working alongside our PNGDF partners to help them in this fight,” Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton said.

In October, Australia supplied Papua New Guinea with 240 oxygen concentrators for critically ill patients and delivered 70,000 vaccine doses, bringing the total AstraZeneca vaccine doses given to 144,970.

Australia has also helped deliver more than 770,000 vaccine doses to the country in partnership with the COVAX facility, New Zealand, and the United States.

Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia, with a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him at