This Wednesday, Australia demanded that AstraZeneca and the European Union urgently access one million doses of the vaccine it had purchased to supply to Papua New Guinea, which is registering a new outbreak of Covid-19.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared that he wants to use the doses Australia has ordered and paid for to help Papua New Guinea, an island north of Australia, fight the coronavirus.
“We make a formal demand to AstraZeneca and the European authorities to have access to one million doses of our order from AstraZeneca, not for Australia but for Papua New Guinea, a developing country that desperately needs these vaccines“Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
“We have signed a contract for these doses, we have paid for them. And we want these vaccines to get here so we can help our closest neighbor, Papua New Guinea”he added.
The Australian action comes after Italy in early March blocked a delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines produced on European soil that was destined for Australia. Rome justified this measure due to the “persistent shortage of vaccines and supply delays from AstraZeneca” in the EU and Italy.
Brussels has not objected to the blockade decided by Italy and declared that other countries could do the same.
Papua New Guinea, one of the poorest countries in the Pacific with 9 million inhabitants, officially recorded more than 1,000 new cases of covid-19 since March 1, double the total number of infected since the virus arrived in the country a year ago. anus.
The extent of the pandemic there is difficult to gauge due to a lack of testing, and the slowness of the testing process raises fears that the virus is spreading much more rapidly among the population. Authorities have warned that the country’s fragile health system is struggling to cope with the epidemic.
Australian Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said that half of the women who went to hospitals in the capital, Port Moresby, because they were pregnant, tested positive. Large numbers of frontline healthcare workers were also contracting COVID-19. “These are all signs that there is a major epidemic in the communityKelly said.
Marape warned this week that one in three or four people in Papua New Guinea could soon be infected. “If we do not give a corrective response to this, our health system will become clogged and we will not be able to maintain it.”Marape told reporters in Port Moresby.
Australia expects Papua New Guinea to receive 588,000 vaccine doses between April and June from the World Health Organization’s COVAX program, which is shipping vaccines mainly to low- and middle-income countries.
Papua New Guinea is separated from the Australian mainland by an archipelago across the Torres Strait, where residents have island-hopped between the two countries for generations.
Morrison announced new restrictions on flights between the two countries on Wednesday. The maritime border has been closed due to the pandemic, but it is difficult to police. Several recent COVID-19 cases detected in the closest Australian state to Papua New Guinea, Queensland, originated across the border. Morrison said the Papua New Guinea emergency “presents very real risks for Australia”.