This week saw a dramatic slowing in the number of new cases in the Pacific islands with 259 reported, up from 239 last week. Australia and New Zealand are showing diminished infection rates as well.

In contrast to the cautious optimism in other parts of the region, concerns are rising that Covid-19 could rapidly reach epidemic status in Papua New Guinea. Cases have been reported in four provinces, and the original source of infection is unknown in two places. A World Health Organization official recently stated that health workers must be prepared to face the prospect of community transmission.

Across the border in the Indonesia province of Papua, official figures may belie a much grimmer picture. The official tally of 155 infections in the province is likely to be low, given the state of health care, and the systemic distrust between the indigenous population and the state. One batch of 300 tests administered to government officials in Mimika returned 110 positive results.

As everywhere, sport in the Pacific has been disrupted. The Pacific mini-games were scheduled for June next year in the Northern Marianas. They have been shifted to 2022, to avoid a clash with the Tokyo Olympics. Meanwhile the Indonesian National games, slated for October in West Papua, have been delayed by a year. The virus has caused serious disruption to construction projects associated with the event, too.

Please click here to read the full “Coronavirus in the Pacific: weekly briefing” article published at Guardian, written by Tess Newton Cain and Dan McGarry.