Australia is reprioritising over PGK47 million from existing commitments to provide a wide-ranging package of support to PNG to prepare and respond to a coronavirus outbreak.
This is under the Papua New Guinea – Australia partnership to provide support to the Government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
According to a recent statement from the Australian High Commission’s PNGAus Partnership, “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.”
Australia is supporting PNG health institutions and systems as they prepare for and respond to the crisis,by working with the National Department of Health and partners, such as Provincial Health Authorities, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and NGOs.
This assistance aims to implement the PNG Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan for Coronavirus, which includes 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.
“We are also working alongside the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) in their preparation and response to COVID-19 efforts, including during the current lockdown period.”
The AFP PNG-Australia Policing Partnership (PNG-APP) currently has 28 Advisors based in PNG, their largest international policing deployment.
PNG-APP Advisors are embedded with RPNGC Commissioner Manning, supporting him as Controller for the State of Emergency; supporting PNG’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force; assisting with RPNGC’s COVID-19 budgetary planning; and supporting RPNGC’s provincial response to COVID-19.
Australia is also reinforcing communication and community awareness raising, by empowering churches and others to support public information campaigns on avoiding infection, as well as providing staff support to the COVID-19 emergency call centre.
Apart from that, Australia is also providing direct technical assistance and expert advice to the Government in planning and preparation, with advisers located in key departments and assisting the Government’s Joint Task Force, as well as providing policy advice and support.
Australia is also working with the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) by re-prioritising and bringing forward programs within the Defence Cooperation Program (DCP).
The DCP is working with the PNGDF to provide technical advice, training and capacity building, refurbishment of a building at Murray Barracks headquarters, renovation of a PNGDF maritime landing craft to be better able to assist in a crisis response, and provision of aviation support to assist in the redeployment and resupply of soldiers on operations.
The support also builds on the US$300 million low interest budget support loan provided to the Government in 2019, to support the economy and the government against economic impacts of COVID-19.