Rabu, 17 Maret 2021

Australia responds to ‘desperate’ call for help from Papua New Guinea -

Australia’s decision to share COVID-19 vaccine doses with Papua New Guinea has been welcomed by one of the country’s leading doctors, who says the country “desperately need” the jab.

Today, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australia would give PNG about 8000 doses of its AstraZeneca vaccine, and also committed to providing another 1 million doses if shipments from Europe were released by authorities.

“We’ve paid for them and we want to see those vaccines come here so we can support our nearest neighbour, PNG, to deal with their urgent needs in our region and we’ll be seeking the support of the European Union and AstraZeneca to achieve that as soon as possible,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Wednesday.

Papua New Guinea has experienced an exponential increase in cases since mid-February, with numbers going from 1000 to 2300 in the past month.

“We desperately need the vaccine because our health workers are being infected at an alarming rate,” University of Papua New Guinea Professor Glen Mola told 7.30.

The growing crisis also threatens to impact Australia, with Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly saying the PNG outbreak could risk new mutant COVID-19 strains developing and escaping into Australia.

In a Guardian article, Prof Mola wrote that 20 per cent of women presenting in labour at Port Moresby General Hospital had symptoms of COVID-19.

“Of these, about one-third (four to five women a day) test positive,” he wrote.

The pandemic is also impacting staff.

“We’re losing about 10 midwives, doctors, nurses every week, and 10 is about 5 per cent of our workforce,” he told 7.30.

“So within a month or two, we’ll be down to 50 per cent staffing levels and we won’t be able to maintain the service.”

RELATED: Papua New Guinea poses serious risk to Australia

Infectious diseases researcher Brendan Crabb of the Burnet Institute said the pandemic in PNG already seemed to be out of control, with thousands of cases likely to be in circulation at the moment.

“That means in a week or two it will be tens, if not hundreds, of thousands,” he said.

The crisis appears likely to overwhelm the country’s health system.

Australia will send three AUSMAT (Australian Medical Assistance Teams) health specialists to Port Moresby to work with authorities on infection control, triage and emergency management and public health measures.

Mr Morrison said other supplies would also be sent to the country including:

• 1 million surgical masks;

• 200,000 P2/N95 respirator masks;

• 100,000 gowns;

• 100,000 goggles;

• 100,000 pairs of gloves;

• 100,000 bottles of hand sanitisers;

• 20,000 face shields; and

• 200 non-invasive ventilators.

RELATED: Italy blocks vaccine doses headed to Australia

The government will also supply hospital ten facilities outside Port Moresby General Hospital, establish a Taurama Aquatic Centre as an isolation facility for mild to moderate cases with up to 120-bed capacity, and provide funding for St John Ambulance services.

In order to reduce the risk to Australia, the government will review the adequacy of pre-departure COVID testing and on-arrival quarantine arrangements from PNG. It will investigate options for pre-departure testing within 24 hours of departure.

Flights between Port Moresby and Cairns will also be suspended, while passenger capacity on flights between Port Moresby and Brisbane will be reduced by 25 per cent.

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2021-03-17 11:15:00Z

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