Australia will donate 8,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and seek approval for one million more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to help the Pacific island nation contain its recent outbreak, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Wednesday.
The country will also send one million surgical masks, and 100,000 gowns, gloves and sanitizer along with 200 non-invasive ventilators and 20,000 face shields to PNG.
This is in Australia’s interests, and is in our region’s interests,” Morrison said.
Australia is suspending all outbound travel, including charter flights, to PNG for two weeks from midnight Wednesday, Morrison said. Only freight and some humanitarian workers will be exempted.
He also said that workers who fly in and out between the two countries should remain where they are. “The escalation of issues with the virus in Papua New Guinea, presents very real risks to Australia as well," he said.
Morrison said he has been in touch with his counterpart, PNG Prime Minister James Marape, as the rising number of cases in the country “are of great concern."
"We have been assisting with some (Covid-19) tests in Papua New Guinea and out of the 500 tests that our health authorities have done for Papua New Guinea, 250 have come back positive," said Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in a press conference Monday.
On Sunday, PNG reported 97 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total confirmed infections to 2,269, according to the country’s health ministry.
Five new virus-related deaths were also reported Sunday, bringing the country's total death toll to 26, the ministry added.