BY REBECCA KUKU
THE Australian government will reprioritise more than K47million from existing commitments to provide a wide-ranging package of support while providing direct assistance to Papua New Guinea to prepare and respond to a potential coronavirus outbreak, says Health and HIV/AIDS Minister Jelta Wong.
Wong said the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and other partners were working to provide support to the Government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis.
“We are supporting a comprehensive national response, not just in Port Moresby, but direct provincial assistance as well, including from our consulate general and Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Defence Force (ADF) representatives in Lae, Morobe,” DFAT said in a statement.
It said the initial assistance included supporting PNG health institutions and systems as they prepared for and responded to the crisis by working with Health Department and partners, such as provincial health authorities, Unicef, the World Health Organisation and non-governmental organisation.
“We are providing assistance that aims to implement the PNG emergency preparedness and response plan for Coronavirus, including providing over 42,000 pieces of protective equipment for health workers, over 20,000 testing kits and improving the ability of health facilities to respond and treat suspected cases and patients,” DFAT said.
The statement also said AFP would work alongside police in their preparation and response to Covid-19 efforts, including during the current lockdown.
“The AFP–PNG Australia policing partnership currently has 28 advisers based in PNG, which was Australia’s largest international policing deployment.
“These members are versatile and committed to working side by side with police and the PNG Government in providing support of the Covid-19 response in PNG,” the statement said.
It said the advisers were embedded with Police Commissioner David Manning, supporting him as Controller for the State of Emergency (SOE); supporting PNG’s Covid-19 joint task force; assisting with police Covid-19 budgetary planning; and supporting provincial police response to Covid-19.
DFAT said Australia would provide direct technical assistance and expert advice to the PNG Government in planning and preparation, with advisers located in key Government departments and assisting the Government’s joint task force, as well as providing policy advice and support.
“We are working with the PNG Defence Force by re-prioritising and bringing forward programmes within the defence cooperation programme,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Australian High Commission said it is committed to assist PNG and the Pacific in the fight against Covid-19.
“We are working with PNG across multiple areas and across the entire country to respond to the PNG Government’s plan to prepare for, and address, Covid-19.”
“This goes to the heart of Australia’s Pacific Step-up – working together to keep our people healthy and safe in uncertain times. The PNG–Australia Partnership is stronger than ever. We are working with PNG across multiple areas and across the entire country to respond to the PNG Government’s plan to prepare for, and address, Covid-19.”