| Transcribed by Peacifica | Edited
Peacifica supports and advocates peacebuilding in the South Pacific. Its philosophy is that building and sustaining peaceful societies is a critical challenge that Pacific islanders and Australians can meet together. Read more about Peacifica here
CANBERRA – What follows are the major points from a media conference this morning addressed by Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison, foreign minister Marise Payne and chief health officer Dr Paul Kelly.
The event was attended by Peacifica and its transcription has been edited for publication by PNG Attitude.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison:
Australia has always been concerned for our Pacific neighbours, who have done have an extraordinary job containing the pandemic.
But it was always going to be too big for Papua New Guinea.
Australians will always stand with PNG in every way.
PNG’s Covid outbreak contains risks to Australia.
Australia is now vaccinating people in Torres Strait islands to minimise risk of Covid spread in northern Australia.
Testing of people disembarking from PNG flights is continuing.
But we need to do more.
From midnight Australia will take the following measures to protect people in PNG and Queensland:
- Passenger flights from PNG to Cairns suspended (freight excepted)
- Non critical charter flights suspended
- Reduced number of passengers on Port Moresby - Brisbane flights.
- No more FIFO. People can either fly in or fly out of Australia, not both.
Lots of personal protective equipment (PPE) is being donated to PNG, including 200 non- invasive ventilators.
8,000 doses of Australia's current vaccine stock is going to PNG for frontline workers.
Australia is asking Astra Zeneca and the European Union to divert some of Australia's vaccine order to PNG.
More Australian medical personnel will be deployed to PNG.
There will be more border controls in the Torres Strait.
The Queensland government will extend the vaccine rollout into the treaty villages
Under the Covax facility, 500,000 vaccinations will be available in PNG by June.
Papua New Guineans are our family, friends, neighbours and partners.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly:
Any number of infected people you read about PNG will be a major underestimate.
Half of the pregnant women coming into PNG hospitals are testing positive.
It's a major breakout.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne:
We're engaging regularly and in depth with PNG's senior leaders.
The Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security is coordinating the exercise in partnership with the government of PNG.
An Australian emergency medical team (AusMat) will be in PNG from Monday laying the groundwork for later teams.
Responses to media questions:
Morrison: Emphasises that Australia is supporting PNG's initiative. The team AusMat going to PNG next week will help to frame Australia's contribution.
Morrison: Australia provided 200,000 masks for Sir Michael Somare’s funeral.
Payne: Many other specific things are being done to expand PNG’s case management capacity
Payne: There are many NGOs on ground that are part of the response.
Morrison (answering whether Australia’s response enough): We work as partners with Quad and others, and we work to protect Australia's borders. We will increase support over time, in partnership.
Morrison & Kelly: Squash speculation on vaccine hesitancy.
Kelly: Reports that vaccine uptake in the Torres Strait has been very good.
Morrison: Sounds confident that the European suppliers will agree to divert supplies to PNG. Some Australian-made vaccine will also go to the Pacific.
Morrison: Emphasises Australian generosity of spirit towards 'our family’.
Peacifica’s final observation:
Australia’s prioritisation of diverting Australian vaccines to be delivered straight from Europe to PNG is a huge gesture. Peacifica can't think of a more meaningful expression of Australian solidarity.