House debates

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Papua New Guinea

2:17 pm

Photo of Warren EntschWarren Entsch (Leichhardt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister please inform the House how the Morrison government is stepping up to manage a concerning spike in COVID-19 cases in Papua New Guinea, to save lives and to support our closest Pacific neighbour's health system? How will these activities will help to protect Australians, particularly Australians in Queensland, as Far North Queensland is, of course, in the Torres Strait?

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

There are many friends of Papua New Guinea in this place, on all sides of the chamber, but none greater than the member for Leichhardt. He has done an outstanding job in responding to this latest crisis in Papua New Guinea, and I want to thank him, on behalf of the foreign minister and the health minister and many other members of the national security committee, for the tremendous input he has given to framing the response that I announced earlier today in relation to the COVID crisis in Papua New Guinea.

There are so many great friends of Papua New Guinea, because there is no closer member of our Pacific family than Papua New Guinea. Earlier this week we mourned together with Papua New Guinea the loss of their Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare. This is a nation—this is a people, more importantly, because, even at the time when it was an Australian territory, the people of Papua New Guinea stood by Australians like no other nation we can think of in our region. They were there for us on the Kokoda Trail, and we will be there for them as they face this most recent challenge.

Today we have announced that in response to the serious escalation of the COVID crisis in Papua New Guinea—that has seen the WHO now categorise outbreaks in Port Moresby and West Sepik as large-scale community transmission events—we're moving immediately to get 8,000 doses of our vaccines from domestic stocks here in Australia to vaccinate frontline health workers in PNG from next week. That will be supported by deploying a strategic AUSMAT team, who will be there on Monday to commence the planning of further responses by Australia, which will include further clinical teams that will support that vaccination program and other urgent health tasks. We will be seeking the release of a million of the doses that we have contracted from AstraZeneca from the European production facilities, and we want them to release those stocks of vaccines so we can support, right now, one of the developing countries most devastated as a result of COVID. We need that help right now, and I have no doubt the parliament, from all sides, will be joining us in that call to our European friends to release those vaccines to ensure that we can support our family here in the Pacific.

In addition, in response to the request from Prime Minister Marape, who I have been in constant contact with, we're deploying some one million surgical masks; 200,000 P2 N95 respirator masks; 100,000 sets of gowns, goggles, gloves and hand sanitiser; 20,000 face shields; and up to 200 non-invasive ventilators. This is part of a comprehensive Australian response, including supports for surveillance testing, PPE in a clinical care capacity, reopening the Rita Flynn testing and isolation facility in Port Moresby, a new emergency triage facility at Port Moresby General Hospital and the PNG COVID-19— (Time expired)