NZ sends protective gear to PNG to cope with covid crisis

NZ Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta
NZ Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta ... very concerned by the worsening covid outbreak in PNG, and NZ has agreed to assist where it can. Image: Dom Thomas/RNZ

RNZ Pacific

New Zealand is sending personal protective equipment to Papua New Guinea to assist health workers treat a surge in covid-19 cases.

PNG’s total number of confirmed covid cases is speeding towards 3000 in an outbreak which is overwhelming the country’s health system.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said New Zealand was very concerned by the worsening outbreak in PNG, and had agreed to assist where it could.

The PPE package is to be delivered on a New Zealand Defence Force flight to PNG tomorrow.

It includes hand sanitisers, goggles, swabs, gloves, gowns, surgical masks, face shields and other items sufficient to treat 1000 covid-19 cases.

“We are providing support to the government of Papua New Guinea as it identifies and responds to emergency needs created by the pandemic,” Mahuta said.

“We are also making funding available to the New Zealand High Commission in Port Moresby to respond to needs on the ground, as requested by partners in Papua New Guinea.”

Boosts last year’s aid
The support announced today by the minister is in addition to the NZ$6 million in covid-related support that New Zealand has provided to PNG over the past year, including budget support, medical supplies and equipment.

“Our thoughts are with the people of Papua New Guinea who have been affected by the covid-19 pandemic, and in particular the whānau of the people who have tragically lost their lives,” the minister said.

Mahuta said New Zealand stood ready to assist PNG further as areas for additional support become clear.

Meanwhile, medical equipment and 8000 doses of the AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine from Australia have been dispatched to PNG this week for frontline health workers, of whom more than 100 have already tested positive in the capital.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has requested the European Union to divert a million more doses of the AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine for urgent use in PNG.

He said Australia had contracted and paid for the doses and intended them for use in PNG.

The request comes two weeks after Italy blocked a shipment of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia, enacting a recently introduced EU regulation for the first time.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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