Canberra (Tribune International, PM Office’s Release, 17 March 2021): Australia is working with Papua New Guinea to support the Government’s response to a concerning spike in COVID-19 cases to help save lives and support our closest Pacific neighbour’s health system.
By helping Papua New Guinea, we are not only helping our Pacific family, we are keeping our nation and our people safe.
The Australian Government has agreed to a request for assistance and will partner with Papua New Guinea on a comprehensive support package to help it respond to the crisis.
This includes the earliest possible supply of 8,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from Australia’s stock. It will enable vaccination of the country’s essential health workforce, with an initial rollout for the National Capital District. Future priorities will be determined with Papua New Guinea’s Government.
The Australian Government will also make a formal request to AstraZeneca and European Authorities for one million doses of Australia’s contracted supplies to gift to Papua New Guinea.
Our early vaccine assistance will be coordinated with the Papua New Guinean Government’s response, which has included their COVID-19 National Pandemic Response taskforce. We will also work with the WHO and UNICEF to ensure that it complements PNG’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan.
We are conscious of the close family and cultural connections of those people living in the Torres Strait Protected Zone. Both Governments are determined to protect our respective communities and avoid any cross-border COVID-19 transmission.
The roll out of vaccines in the Torres Strait Islands by the Queensland Government has already begun. The Australian Government will also work with the Papua New Guinea and Queensland Governments to address health security on both sides of the Torres Strait including support for making vaccines available in a timely way in Treaty Villages in the Protected Zone.
The COVID-19 outbreak in Papua New Guinea carries risks to the Australian people through incoming travellers. We are reviewing the adequacy of pre-departure COVID testing and on-arrival quarantine arrangements. We will be working with the Papua New Guinea Government over the coming weeks to investigate options for pre departure testing within 24 hours of departure.
In addition, we will suspend flights between Port Moresby and Cairns, and passenger capacity on flights between Port Moresby and Brisbane will be reduced by 25 percent.
To maintain emergency supplies and other essential services, freight flights will continue.
Charter flights from Papua New Guinea into Australia will also be suspended, with limited exceptions for medivac, humanitarian and other critical flights.
Australian Border Force will continue to enhance its presence in the Torres Strait.
As another element of our partnership, Australia is also deploying a forward team of three AUSMAT health specialists to Port Moresby. The specialists will work with Papua New Guinea’s health authorities on infection control, triage and emergency management and public health measures.
They will also advise on further Australian assistance and deployment of clinical care teams.
Australia is also providing the following new targeted support:
- Supply of PPE and other equipment for Port Moresby General Hospital and other facilities, as well as 200,000 facemasks;
- Working with the WHO on expanding warehouse capacity to increase storage for PPE and streamline its distribution;
- Supply of hospital tent facilities outside Port Moresby General Hospital for safe triaging and referral and transfer of patients;
- Supporting St John’s PNG and National Capital District Provincial Health Authority to establish Taurama Aquatic Centre as an isolation facility for mild to moderate cases with up to 120 bed capacity.
- Funding support for the re-opening of the Rita Flynn Testing and Isolation Facility to relieve pressure on the Port Moresby General Hospital;
- Funding St John’s Ambulance’s COVID-19 operations in Port Moresby, including patient transport, COVID-19 testing and PPE distribution to clinics;
- Supporting the COVID-19 National Control Centre with information management, risk communications, quarantine management and health financing; and
- Scaling up surveillance, testing and clinical care capacity in Port Moresby and provinces with known outbreaks, and testing of samples in Australia.
The Australian Government will also provide essential PPE supplies to the PNG Government including:
- Surgical Masks – 1 million
- P2/N95 respirator masks – 200,000
- Gowns – 100,000
- Goggles – 100,000
- Gloves – 100,000 pairs
- Hand sanitiser – 100,000 bottles
- Face Shields – 20,000
- Non-invasive ventilators (plus appropriate quantity of consumables) – 200
This new support is in addition to the $144.7 million support that Australia is providing to Papua New Guinea over 2020-21 to 2022-23 through our regional vaccine access initiative. This funding will support Papua New Guinea prepare for a COVID-19 vaccination campaign and assist with the procurement and delivery of doses.
It also builds on our $80 million contribution to the multilateral COVAX Facility’s Advance Market Commitment (AMC) for developing countries, which will support vaccine access for around 20 percent of populations at greatest risk in 92 developing countries. The COVAX facility has indicated that it will deliver 588,000 vaccines for Papua New Guinea by June.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia has already provided assistance of over $60 million dollars in assistance to help Papua New Guinea respond to the crisis.
At the inaugural Quad Leaders’ Summit last weekend the Prime Minister, Indian Prime Minister Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Suga and US President Biden agreed on a signature initiative to work together to boost vaccine production and distribution to countries in the Indo-Pacific.
We have reached out to our Quad partners to look at what more we can do together to support Papua New Guinea.