The Morrison Government needs to provide urgent and comprehensive assistance to Papua New Guinea, which is grappling with a severe COVID-19 outbreak.
So far this month our Pacific neighbour has recorded 376 new coronavirus cases, however due to low testing rates this number could be much higher.
Yet again the Morrison Government is behind the eight ball when it comes to stepping up in the Pacific.
The Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja claims the “Government is watching the current rise of COVID-19 in PNG closely and with concern” but it appears the Morrison Government has been caught flat-footed.
Not only is this outbreak putting huge pressure on Papua New Guinea’s health system, it’s already creating challenges in Australia – including higher risks of transmission to the Torres Strait Islands and via fly-in workers.
Last year Labor warned that if the Morrison Government didn’t provide adequate support to the Pacific during this pandemic, then other countries would fill the void. The Chinese government has already dispatched a medical team to Papua New Guinea this week.
It has been almost two weeks since the last community transmission of COVID-19 in Australia, and the vaccine rollout is still in its very early days.
If the outbreak in Papua New Guinea is not quickly contained, it could again spread throughout Australia.
The Government must ensure its Pacific Step-up is more than just a slogan and provide Papua New Guinea with emergency medical assistance, testing and health infrastructure to ensure this COVID-19 outbreak doesn’t inflict catastrophic damageon our Pacific neighbour.