CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australia will send COVID-19 vaccines from its own supply to neighboring Papua New Guinea and ask AstraZeneca to send more to stem the tide of infection.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 8,000 doses would be sent to Papua New Guinea’s first-line health care workers next week, and that he and his Papua New Guinean counterpart, James Ames Marap, would ask AstraZeneca to send 1 million doses as soon as possible.
The European Union has blocked the shipment of more than 250,000 doses of cargo to Australia this month because the need for it was not considered sufficient in a country that was highly successful in retaining the coronavirus.
“With the support of the PNG Government, we are formally requesting AstraZeneca և European authorities to purchase 1 million doses of our contract supplies of AstraZeneca, not Australia, but PNG, a developing country in dire need of these vaccines. “Morrison told reporters.
“We have signed a contract with them. “We paid for them. We want to see these vaccines come here so we can help our nearest neighbor, PNG, meet their urgent needs in our region.”
Papua New Guinea is a poor country with a cultural diversity of almost 9 million people who speak more than 800 languages, mostly living in traditional villages. The prevalence of the epidemic is difficult to assess due to lack of testing.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said half of all women attending hospitals in the capital, Port Moresby, were pregnant because of pregnancy. Frontline paramedics were also contracted to COVID-19.
“These are all signs that there is a serious epidemic in the community,” Kelly said.
Marape warned this week that every three or four people in Papua New Guinea could be infected soon.
Papua New Guinea is separated from the Australian mainland by an archipelago through the Torres Strait, where residents have been jumping on the island between the two countries for generations.
On Wednesday, Morrison announced new restrictions on flights between countries. The ova border is closed due to the epidemic, but the police are difficult. The last few cases of COVID-19 found in Australia, near Papua New Guinea, Queensland, have originated across the border.
Morrison said the Papua New Guinea state of emergency “poses very real risks to Australia.”
Australia began vaccinating people in the Australian islands of the Torres Strait this week.
Philemon Mosby, mayor of the Torres Strait Island Regional Council, said his Australian counterparts in the islands were increasingly concerned about the threat to the nearby Papua New Guinea islands.
“An outbreak in our region would certainly be devastating,” Mosby, a resident of Poruma Island, told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Australia is one of the most successful countries in the world in spreading the disease. One of the reasons for Australia’s success is that it has no land border with any country.