The Australian Council for international Development (ACFID) is urging the Australian Government to accelerate its response to the escalating COVID-19 outbreak in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
ACFID has welcomed the indication in Senate Estimates today that the Australian Government will move beyond the immediate 8,480 allocation of vaccines to PNG and comments by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Sen the Hon Marise Payne, that all options are on the table for supplying vaccines to PNG, including the use of domestically manufactured AstraZeneca vaccines.
Marc Purcell, CEO of the Australian Council for International Development said:
“The Australian Government is absolutely right to be pressing the EU on this matter, but the situation is too urgent to wait. We are seeing cases rise in Queensland as travellers return from PNG and with numbers increasing in Western Province, the prospect of transmission across the Torres Strait is now a major risk.
“We are seeking for the Australian Government to plan ahead and match its request to the EU by allocating 1 million domestically manufactured vaccines to PNG and rapidly support their rollout.
“We should not assume that the new strain of COVID-19 circulating in PNG is the last to emerge. Each time a new strain develops, the efficacy of existing vaccines comes into question. Crushing the virus in PNG is the best thing we can do right now, for PNG and for Australia.”
In recent days, ACFID has written to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and requested that the Australian Government immediately increase the number of vaccines Australia makes available from its existing domestic supply to PNG from 8,480 to 20,000, and that it continues to increase the availability of its stocks to PNG over the coming weeks to meet the needs of frontline workers.
“We are deeply concerned for the people of PNG. Our members are reporting that their staff are falling sick with COVID-19. Increasing the immediate allocation of Australia’s own vaccine stocks to PNG is critical to keeping hospitals, local clinics and essential services going.”