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Social Stigma – a barrier to Bougainville’s response to COVID-19

The ABG Health Response Team on COVID-19 wishes to inform the public that there are no COVID-19 cases in Bougainville.

Although we do not have cases, the ABG Health Response Team remains vigilant in monitoring and preventing any possible threat that might increase the risk of local transmission.

The ABG Health Response Team is however aware that there are increased concerns of stigma and discrimination against people who are perceived to have been in association with the disease. 

Stigma can be defined as social stigma and discriminatory behaviors against people of certain background, as well as anyone perceived to have been in contact with the virus in this current COVID-19 outbreak.

The ABG Health Response Team understands that this disease is new and there are many unknown aspects at this stage about this disease, therefore we urge our people to understand that things will continue to change as we progress with our emergency period on Bougainville.

However, these unknowns can contribute to unnecessary confusion, anxiety and fear among the public.  And therefore add to harmful stereotypes that can make it difficult for our response teams to identify possible cases within our communities.  Stigma can also:

  • drive people to hide the illness to avoid discrimination,
  • prevent people from seeking health care immediately, and
  • discourage them from adopting healthy behaviors (i.e self-quarantine,) 

Such barriers can lead to more severe illness, continued local transmission and difficulty controlling the outbreak.

It is important we reduce such barriers to encourage people to come out, report and seek earlier treatment. The ABG Health Response Team is therefore calling on the people of Bougainville not to discriminate against these people but to stand united and ready to help each other in this emergency period. Our people must understand that COVID-19 does not discriminate and we are all at risk of this disease.

All our people must continue to uphold the prevention measures:

  1. Maintaining social distance (a minimum of 1.5 meters)
  2. Frequently washing hands using clean running water and soap, or alcohol-based hand rub
  3. When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue — throw away used tissue immediately and wash hands
  4. Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough
  5. If you have fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, stay at home (self-isolate) to protect others and call the ABG Health Response Team Hotline Number 74460830

For more information:

Call ABG Hotline # 74460830  or visit ABG website:   
ABG Facebook Page:
NDOH Facebook page:  
WHO Papua New Guinea Facebook page:
WHO Website: 

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