No Longer Immune


by Dr. Sheryl Uyeda, surgeon and MedSend grant recipient serving in Papua New Guinea

How quickly the world can change in just a few short weeks!

I’m sure you are all feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and Papua New Guinea is no longer immune. The first imported case in PNG was reported on Friday, March 20, in the port city of Lae. Since then, the government has taken quick action to contain the virus by enacting a state of emergency and a two-week travel ban.

All international and domestic flights are grounded; public transportation has been halted; crossing provincial borders is banned except for official government or medical business; schools, churches, markets, and public gatherings are closed for two weeks. Our mission leadership anticipated possible difficulties getting supplies if coronavirus reached PNG, so all of our missionaries previously made preparations to shelter in place for several months in case of ongoing road closures or civil unrest. The hospital leadership quickly deployed their coronavirus response plan.

In a single day, the maintenance team erected a huge meeting tent in a field outside the hospital gate and converted it into a clinic complete with electricity, oxygen, and running water. All patients reporting symptoms of cough, fever, and shortness of breath are screened at the tent in order to isolate potential coronavirus cases from the rest of the hospital. A health center a few miles down the road has been designated as the Provincial Isolation Center for patients under investigation for coronavirus who need admission for oxygen or intravenous fluids. We do not have the capacity to place patients on ventilators at our hospital or anywhere in the province.

Dr. Mark, one of our missionary doctors and our local public health expert, has been working closely with the provincial government and provincial health authority to coordinate their responses and to educate the public who are gripped with fear from the widespread misinformation that is circulating through communities. WHO has released many educational fliers such as the one above in Tok Pisin to promote good hygiene and social distancing, which is difficult in a communal culture. We are hoping that the quick and coordinated response will halt the spread of coronavirus in PNG. So far, there are no confirmed cases of community spread, and we pray that will remain the case for the duration of this two-week lockdown period.


1. Praise for more times of personal rest during this calm before the storm.
2. Praise for God’s provision and direction of our leadership team in their preparations and quick responses to the constantly changing situation.
3. Praise for God’s peace which surpasses understanding in this time of uncertainty and fear.
4. Praise for the hope of Easter and the eternal comfort and peace that Jesus brings.

Prayer Requests:
1. Pray for our doctors, nurses, support staff, patients and community as we face the threat of coronavirus in PNG.
2. Pray that the spread of coronavirus will be halted in PNG and around the world.
3. Pray for God’s guidance for the government, mission leadership and hospital leadership as they continue to respond and adapt to a rapidly changing situation.
4. Pray for my personal health, strength, and endurance for the next few months. Pray that my surgical partner, Dr. Ben, who is currently on Home Assignment in the states, will be able to return to PNG in a timely manner.
5. Pray for Dr. Imelda (who is in PNG) and Dr. Katherine (who is currently stateside) who are both expecting babies in May. Pray for safe deliveries and healthy babies and mothers during these uncertain times.

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