Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s allocation of 8000 vaccines, as well as personal protective equipment and medical specialists, for Papua New Guinea’s fight against COVID has been praised by Christian aid groups.
Australia’s closest neighbour, PNG is recording about 100 new coronavirus cases each day and its healthcare system is struggling to keep up. On Monday, PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape warned of an even more dire situation, saying the country’s infection rate is approaching one person in every three or four.
“They’re our friends, they’re our neighbours, they’re our partners,” Morrison said about PNG. “They have always stood with us and we will always stand with them.”
Spokesperson for the End Covid For All campaign, Micah Australia executive director Tim Costello, described the Prime Minister’s announcement as “humane” and “smart”.
“Bold, swift action is necessary in a pandemic and today the Australian Government has stepped up,” Costello said. “This package will save lives, prevent health systems being overwhelmed and slow the spread of COVID on our northern doorstep.
“This is humane, but it is also smart. Only four kilometres separate Australia and Papua New Guinea and COVID does not respect borders. Stopping it at the source of the outbreak makes far greater sense than waiting for it to make its way into Australia and then reimposing lockdowns and other restrictions.
“I know the Australian public to be compassionate, kind and fast-acting when our neighbours are in deep need.”
Along with announcing that he has approached the EU to release one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to PNG, which were earmarked for Australia, Morrison also said passenger flights from Australia to PNG will be suspended from midnight.
Kirsty Robertson, CEO of Caritas Australia – a Catholic aid organisation and member of End Covid for All – also applauded the Morrison Government’s offer to help PNG.
“Bolstering the ground effort of the PNG health system is absolutely critical,” Robertson said. “The resources the Australian Government has announced will make an immediate difference where it matters.
“Swift action saves lives, as we have seen since the start of this pandemic. This package both responds to the immediate crisis but also lays foundations for an enduring COVID containment effort across our region.
“The Government has made an important stride forward and that deserves recognition.”
A PNG-based Caritas aid worker, Diane Unagi, contracted COVID but recently recovered. She said Australia’s help would make an “enormous difference”.
“This virus is overwhelming our health system,” said Unagi. “When I contracted COVID, I couldn’t find out my test results. Even when I had shortness of breath, we called the ambulance and got no response.
“Australia’s support is much needed and will make an enormous difference.”
Other Christian charities posted similar messages of support, including UnitingWorld – the Uniting Church in Australia’s international aid agency – and Baptist World Aid.
The government has announced it will immediately send 8,000 emergency vaccine doses to Papua New Guinea to help curb the exploding case numbers there.
This is a huge gesture of solidarity that will save lives.
— UnitingWorld 🌏 (@UnitingWorld) March 16, 2021
Praying for our neighbours & friends in Papua New Guinea. #EndCovidForAll
— Baptist World Aid Australia (@BaptistWorldAid) March 17, 2021