Australia gives COVID-19 shots to virus-hit Papua New Guinea
Australia gives COVID-19 shots to virus-hit Papua New Guinea
The 8,000 doses were produced
17 March, 2021, 18:26
The explosion of COVID-19 cases in Papua New Guinea represents a "clear and present danger" to Australia, Health Minister Greg Hunt has warned as Scott Morrison holds a series of urgent meetings with the Pacific Island's leader.
Marape has urged people to avoid unnecessary travel but his warning came as thousands of people gathered to mourn the death of Michael Somare, PNG's first prime minister after independence from Australia.
Papua New Guinea rapidly shut its worldwide borders at the beginning of the pandemic, limiting infections to just a few hundred and dodging the worst ravages of the global crisis.
He said "the status of our public health system is that what we have in our country is not adequate to sustain a full-blown outbreak, that is of pandemic nature".
"We know there are an increasing number of cases in Papua New Guinea at the moment, and any additional support that the federal government can give, whether it's vaccinating health care workers up there, ensuring that their hospitals are safe", she said.
Testing has been an issue for the island nation. Only 55,000 tests have been recorded from an estimated population of nine million people.
Mr Morrison said giving vaccines to the country was the right thing to do and believed Australians would agree.
The FIFO ban comes after Papua New Guinea miner Ok Tedi Mining enforced a two-week ban on its worldwide charter flights last week due to its personnel testing positive for COVID-19 during hotel quarantine in Cairns.
"Remain in your provinces, remain in your districts, remain in your villages, remain in your suburbs where you are".
"It's broken loose ... we need to contain it", he said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"This is in Australia's interests and it is in our region's interests and it's incumbent on us as Australians both to secure the health of our own citizens but equally our PNG family who are so dear to us", Mr Morrison said.
Australia also plans to divert supplies of one million jabs due to be arriving from Europe, with Mr Morrison urging the European Union to make the doses available.
David Ayres, country director with Marie Stopes PNG, which has nurses in 13 hospitals, told Reuters health workers throughout the country were falling ill.
The Australian state of Queensland is helping Papua New Guinea with testing.
About 40 per cent of the COVID tests being conducted on PNG are coming back with positive results, with its Prime Minister James Marape had entered a "red stage" of the pandemic.
Australia is suspending all outbound travel, including charter flights, to PNG for two weeks from midnight Wednesday, Morrison said.
Senator Payne touted the $500 million the Australian government had committed to support a vaccine rollout in the Pacific and southeast Asia.
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However, any region that reports over 250 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents weekly will automatically be forced into lockdown. He added: "The memory of what happened last spring is vivid, and we will do everything to prevent it from happening again".
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