The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) has warmly welcomed the Australian Government’s next step in responding to the PNG epidemic by providing 10,000 vaccines a week to Melanesian countries and Timor-Leste and a further health assistance package for PNG.
In responding, ACFID has released polling conducted by YouGov (1-6 April) showing that 84 per cent of Australians agree that the Australian Government should be supporting PNG to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
ACFID CEO, Marc Purcell commented:
“The Australian Government is swinging behind our friends in PNG. This is another critical step to tackling the epidemic. By tomorrow morning, more Australian health experts will be on the frontline alongside Papua New Guineans helping critically ill patients.
“PNG cases of COVID-19 have doubled in 16 days and in the last week, and according to report two of the six confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in the Eastern Highlands were health workers.”
Despite low testing rates, Australian epidemiologists have estimated cases in PNG may reach 1 million by next month.
“Australia’s support for the health systems and the supply of equipment, like testing kits, will be critical in keeping health facilities going and getting a better grasp on the transmission of the virus.”
The peak body commissioned the YouGov polling to test public support for helping PNG.
The survey of 1025 Australians from April 1 – 6 found 84 per cent either ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ agree that the Australian Government should be supporting PNG to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“The polling shows Australia is a generous and fair-minded nation. We are willing to help out our mates in tough times,” Mr Purcell said.
“This poll should reassure politicians of all stripes that the public overwhelmingly backs swift and decisive action to help PNG.”
As the situation grows more troubling, ACFID has outlined the need for further deployment of Australian health experts and Australian support for public information campaigns to reduce vaccine hesitancy already effecting the uptake of vaccinations.
“There is no time to lose in vaccinating the people of PNG. Not only do we need to get vaccines into the country, we need to get them into arms.
“There is an urgent need for public health information campaigns delivered by civil society, churches and community leaders. This will be essential to getting the message out to all 22 provinces across PNG.
“As scale of the epidemic grows, we are looking to see further Australian health experts deployed throughout the country.”