The AUSMAT and ADF personnel arrived by C130J Hercules Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft in Port Moresby yesterday.
Australia will support Papua New Guinea efforts through aviation lift support to deliver emergency supplies, including pre-packaged personal protective equipment, medicines, and oxygen consumables to high priority provinces across PNG.
The deployment comes in response to a request from the PNG Government and expands the current AUSMAT led team of health and logistics experts to 13. This is the sixth AUSMAT deployment to PNG, in addition to Australia's extensive partnership and assistance to the country's COVID-19 response over the past 20 months.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Marise Payne, said Australia is committed to standing with our friend and neighbour as it faces significant pressure on its health system.
“Australia and Papua New Guinea know the importance of partnership. Responding to this current COVID-19 outbreak together is no exception,” Minister Payne said.
“The team will support the Papua New Guinea-led response through the allocation of extra health specialists and medical supplies across the health system in response to the current surge in cases.”
The ADF health and logistics specialists will work with Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) vaccination teams to help increase immunisation across the country.
ADF logisticians will assist the PNGDF with forecasting, ordering and transportation of supplies, while health specialists will provide additional training and advice on administering vaccines.
The additional 14 ADF personnel will join a team of five ADF planners who have been deployed on Operation PNG Assist since August, supplementing the ongoing efforts of Defence's existing 41 PNG Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) personnel. The DCP have been in Papua New Guinea to support the PNGDF throughout the pandemic.
Minister for Defence, Peter Dutton, said Defence's increasing support is testament to Australia's commitment to help Papua New Guinea manage the spread of COVID-19.
“Tackling COVID-19 is a global challenge and we are proud to contribute additional specialist capacity and expertise, with our ADF personnel working alongside our PNGDF partners to help them in this fight,” Minister Dutton said.
This month, in response to the current COVID-19 outbreak, Australia has also provided 240 oxygen concentrators to support the care of critically ill patients and delivered 70,000 vaccine doses to Papua New Guinea, bringing the total AstraZeneca vaccine doses delivered to 144,970. In addition, Australia has worked closely with the COVAX facility, New Zealand and United States partners to deliver more than 770,000 vaccine doses.
Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, said that these vaccines and medical supplies are making a difference and Australia will continue to respond to the needs of our nearest neighbour.
“Australia is partnering closely with the Government of Papua New Guinea and its Provincial Health Authorities on vaccine delivery and distribution, including in the Torres Strait Treaty Villages,” Minister Seselja said.
“These measures build on over $340 million in assistance Australia has provided for the PNG Government's national COVID-19 response since the start of the pandemic.”
Australia will continue to partner with Papua New Guinea's nationally-led response on their priorities and COVID-19 plans, including by supporting investments that strengthen PNG’s long-term health security beyond the immediate emergency efforts.