Australia will send 8,000 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine supply to Papua New Guinea next week and is asking AstraZeneca and European authorities to divert another 1 million doses to the country.
Health experts fear the real figure is much higher because of massive undetected community transmission.
Travel restrictions between Australia and Papua New Guinea are being tightened, with a suspension of flights between Port Moresby and Cairns, and a ban on workers flying in and out of the country.
“Starting at midnight tonight, we will further reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission from PNG to Australia by suspending passenger flights from Papua New Guinea into Cairns,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press conference.
The flight suspension will be in place for two weeks, when the situation will be reassessed, but freight will continue.
There will be limited exemptions for medevac and other critical flights.
Further Australian medical support will also be made available to PNG, including masks, gowns, gloves, ventilators and sanitiser.
Mr Morrison said it was in Australia’s interest to help PNG.
“It is also true that the escalation of issues with the virus in PNG presents very real risks to Australia as well,” he said, saying the risks were particularly high in Queensland and the Torres Strait.
“With the support of the PNG government we’re making a formal request to AstraZeneca and the European authorities to access 1 million doses of our contracted supplies of AstraZeneca not for Australia, but for PNG, a developing country in desperate need of these vaccines.
“We’ve paid for them and we want to see those vaccines come here so we can support our nearest neighbour.
“I think Australians understand that that is one of our responsibilities as an advanced nation.
“We all know the Kokoda story. They were there for us. We will be there for them.”
-PNG has more than 1,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19, but the real number is likely to be much higher.
-A travel ban has been put on those flying in and out of the country
-Australia will send masks, gowns, gloves, ventilators and sanitiser to PNG
-Australia’s closest neighbour is in the grip of a worsening COVID-19 crisis, with more than 1,400 active cases.
Source: ABC News