People learn prevention knowledge about COVID-19 at a shopping center in Port Moresby of Papua New Guinea (PNG), Sept 4, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

SYDNEY – Papua New Guinea (PNG) will launch national vaccine roll-out on Tuesday to combat rising cases of COVID-19.

Police Commissioner and Controller of the PNG COVID-19 National Pandemic Response David Manning said most of PNG’s 22 provinces would have received their share of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and done their training in preparation for the national roll-out scheduled for Wednesday.

A total of 103,725 people have been listed to be vaccinated in the first phase, including frontline health care workers, border workers, students at health institutions, prison guards, police, defence force personnel and teachers.

According to the latest statistics released on Monday, the Pacific island country recorded 87 new cases from 16 districts in 10 provinces in the past 24 hours until midday Friday, taking the total cases to 11,206 and known deaths toll to 115.

The national government also pledged to give more support to provincial governments to cope with the pandemic.

“We want to empower provinces to partake or tailor-make their provincial plans, whether it’s for COVID-19 or elections or others, in as far as development is concerned, going into the future,” said PNG Prime Minister James Marape after a meeting with key officials last Thursday.

“You are now empowered to step up your own plans and send them to us and we will see how best we can address.”

“If we agreed to those plans, we will do our utmost best to ensure adequate vaccination doses available to those that need to be inoculated,” he said.

The Prime Minister assured the national government would support to increase provincial hospital capacity by next year in response to addressing COVID-19 issues.

“We will agree to create minimum 200 new beds in all our provincial hospitals in as far as Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facility is concerned that should have oxygen and ventilators attached.”

He also urged residents in provinces that are not connected to the rest of the country by roads to restrict unnecessary travels into other provinces either by sea or air.

“This is no ordinary time. Papua New Guineans should not be travelling around if you have no need for traveling around, you just don’t need to travel. Stay put where you are,” Marape said.