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Papua New Guinea has asked the World Health Organisation for help after a rapidly spreading new coronavirus outbreak sparked preparations for large-scale community transmission in the under-resourced country.

Having mostly dodged the Covid-19 pandemic until now, Papua New Guinea reported on Thursday that it had detected three new cases in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total to 30 – up from just 11 on Sunday.

With limited testing and many positive cases found in health workers, there are fears the virus may have a stronger foothold than those detected cases may indicate.

Papua New Guinea is one of the poorest countries in the Pacific. Its rickety health system is already under severe pressure from the widespread transmission of malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, as well as one of the world’s few remaining outbreaks of polio.

WHO is in the process of mobilising international emergency medical teams to deploy to the country.

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