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DAISI trips scheduled for March and April to the remote Highlands of Papua New Guinea have been cancelled today due to coronavirus concerns.

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“It was not a decision made lightly, with ultimately safety concerns taking priority” says Dr Carina Chow, DAISI member and colorectal surgeon from Brisbane in charge of the planned 6 member volunteer team.

Currently Papua New Guinea has no reported cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19), with more than 100 cases now diagnosed in Australia, mostly from Sydney.  “It is more likely that we will infect those in Papua New Guinea than the other way around” says DAISI team leader Dr Carina Chow, who ultimately made the decision today to cancel the trip after safety concerns and after considering the interests of all involved.

The team of six volunteers from Brisbane (some from Mater Hospital where some of Brisbane’s first coronavirus cases were reported last week) was to include two surgeons, one anaesthetist, and three nurses.

“I feel for all those involved in the planning of these trips and specially those patients in PNG who will miss out on much needed surgery as a result, but ultimately it is a decision between cancelling elective surgery versus risking bringing coronavirus to some of the most remote, vulnerable and medically-ill equipped regions in the Highlands of PNG.”

At this stage it is hoped that the trip will be postponed to later in the year rather than cancelled completely.

“We are watching the situation closely” says DAISI Chairman a/Prof Matt Rickard, who himself is scheduled to volunteer in Papua New Guinea in May later this year emphasising “at this stage the May trip is going ahead, but a final decision will be made one month before the planned trip’s departure depending on the current status of the coronavirus.”

Author Nili Hali is a DAISI member, and DAISI’s advisor in all legal matters. Nili is a barrister for Chalfont Chambers, and prior to this served as a lawyer for the United Nations in The Hague. Nili has a keen interest in humanitarian issues.