Papua New Guinea COVID-19 response
Australia and Papua New Guinea share a longstanding mutually beneficial relationship, reaffirmed by the PNG-Australian Comprehensive Strategic and Economic Partnership (CSEP). Australia is concerned about the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 situation in PNG and is providing significant support for PNG’s response.
Australia is working closely to support the PNG Government and people in their response to COVID-19 while recognising the PNG Government’s sovereignty and leadership of the response. Our support in response to PNG’s requests for assistance has included awareness raising, technical advice, health infrastructure, clinical response including six Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AUSMAT) deployments, testing and surveillance, provision of PPE and vaccines, support to get vaccines into arms, and assistance for economic recovery. This is in addition to assistance provided by the Australian Defence Force and Australian Federal Police, senior advisory support to PNG’s National Control Centre for COVID-19 and National Vaccine Taskforce, and logistics assistance to PNG Defence Force’s surge support to COVID-19 response efforts.
Specific activities include:
- an initial batch of 8,480 vaccine doses from Australia's stock to support vaccinations of essential workers, with further doses from Australian manufactured CSL vaccines for PNG as part of our broader regional vaccine donations;
- strengthening PNG’s testing and surveillance capacity by providing over 20,000 sample collection kits, 38,000 GeneXpert cartridges, 50,000 Rapid Diagnostic Tests, four new Polymerase Chain Reaction testing machines; and testing of over 10,000 samples in Australia
- an estimated $21 million in direct funding to Provincial Health Authorities for provincial response efforts and technical expertise and logistical support to the National Department of Health and PNG’s COVID-19 National Control Centre, including in the areas of public health, surveillance and infection control.
- funding to Australian NGOs and churches (over $21 million to date) for community outreach, resilience building, hygiene and sanitation, vaccine roll-out and distribution of communication materials to combat vaccine hesitancy.
- helping to establish and operate the Florence Nightingale Centre (Taurama Aquatic Centre) as an isolation facility for up to 120 mild COVID patients.
This is in addition to $144.7 million to PNG over 2020-21 to 2022-23 through our Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative to help ensure a smooth, early and safe rollout of the vaccines to the region. This initiative builds on our $80 million contribution to the multilateral COVAX Facility’s Advance Market Commitment for developing countries. Our funding is supporting PNG preparations for a COVID-19 vaccination campaign and to assist with the procurement and delivery of doses.
We are also continuing support for PNG’s economic reform to improve the efficiency and resiliency of the PNG economy and improve the country’s growth prospects on the other side of COVID-19.
Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AUSMAT)
In response to PNG’s call for Emergency Medical Teams on 23 July 2020, Australia deployed Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AUSMAT) to work alongside PNG health officials and frontline workers to support and strengthen the PNG-led response. The Australian medical specialists included epidemiologists, emergency medicine and intensive care specialists, radiographers, anaesthetists, emergency and critical care nurse practitioners, midwives, occupational therapists, medical laboratory scientists, public health experts and logisticians.
The first AUSMAT deployed 4 August to 6 October 2020. Two eight-member teams established and embedded safe COVID-19 clinical practices in existing PNG health facilities, provided supplementary support for clinical care, and worked with PNG health officials and frontline workers to strengthen systems and practices in COVID-19 referral facilities to support PNG to manage the outbreak.
Following a request for assistance from PNG in March 2021, a second AUSMAT deployed 23 March to 7 May. The 20-member team established a COVID-19 Screening and Triage Facility at Port Moresby General Hospital, improved staff and workplace safety for those providing care to COVID-19 patients, and supported and mentored obstetric and intensive care unit staff. AUSMAT also increased the capacity of testing and treatment facilities, and supported the national public health response through improved data collection and the provision of high-level technical advice within the PNG Department of Health and National Coordination Centre.
In 2020, the first AUSMAT travelled to provincial areas in PNG to establish connections with health actors involved in the COVID-19 response. The team worked with health actors in Daru, Vanimo and Lae to provide support, mentorship and guidance to strengthen the COVID-19 response in PNG beyond Port Moresby.
Each AUSMAT deployment worked closely with the Government of PNG, the World Health Organization and Australia’s bilateral health program to ensure a smooth transition and sustainable response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Australian medical specialists adhered to PNG quarantine requirements on arrival in Port Moresby, and to Australian quarantine regulations upon their return home.
- Supporting Papua New Guinea’s COVID-19 response (17 March 2021), joint media release from the Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Health, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for International Development and the Pacific
- Australia boosts assistance for Papua New Guinea’s COVID-19 response (9 April 2021), joint media release from Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for International Development and the Pacific
- COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea (28 July 2020), joint media release from Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Health, Minister for International Development and the Pacific