Australia to donate 8,000 Covid-19 vaccines to Papua New Guinea as cases spike

CANBERRA (REUTERS) – Australia said on Wednesday (March 17) it will donate 8,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and seek approval for 1 million more to help the Pacific island nation contain a dangerous outbreak of infections.

The 8,000 doses were produced in Australia but Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Canberra also would ask AstraZeneca and European authorities to grant access to one million doses of Australia’s contracted vaccines for PNG.

“They’re our family, they’re our friends. They’re our neighbours. They’re our partners,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

“They have always stood with us and we will always stand with them. This is in Australia’s interests, and is in our region’s interests.”

PNG Prime Minister James Marape on Tuesday said the country recorded 97 cases of Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours, but Australia’s chief health officer said that figure was likely as”a major underestimate”.

Australia will also suspend all charter flights for two weeks from Wednesday midnight and outbound travel to PNG, the prime minister said.

Australian state authorities have also sped up the provision of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the Torres Strait islands this week, some of which are only a short boat ride from western PNG.

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