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Papua New Guinea: Australia And New Zealand Efforts ‘woefully Inadequate’ Amid COVID-19 Surge

Responding to reports that Papua New Guinea’s Prime
Minister James Marape has declared a critical ‘red
stage’ in the country due to a recent surge in COVID-19
cases, Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher Kate
Schuetze said:

New Guinea’s health crisis has now reached the level we
feared it would reach a year ago with a surge in cases.

A combination of an ailing health system and inadequate
living conditions has created a perfect storm for COVID-19
to thrive in the country’s overcorwded informal
settlements.Kate Schuetze Pacific Researcher Amnesty

“Amnesty International has received
reports of inadequate amounts of personal protective
equipment for health workers, and that some hospitals are
full or threatening to be closed to new admissions.
Misinformation within the community and online about the
illness is also rife, with some suggesting the illness is a
government conspiracy theory. This has also been fuelled by
the government at times publishing inaccurate information on
the number of confirmed cases. There is an absence of an
effective public information campaign by the government, to
dispel the misinformation.

“While Australia and New
Zealand have made pledges of assistance to Papua New Guinea
in response to the pandemic, it is woefully inadequate.
Australia has sent a team of medical experts this week and
has pledged monetary support, but this will not provide
immediate relief. Basic health infrastructure is urgently
needed in Papua New Guinea to help immediately on the
diagnostic and treatment level, as well as for the
distribution of vaccines once they are approved by the
national authorities.”Kate Schuetze Pacific Researcher
Amnesty International

Yet there is little prospect of
vaccines coming this month, in the context of a deeply
unequal global rollout. The consequences of this mean that
many poorer countries such as PNG will continue to be at the
back of the queue for limited supplies of

Australia and New Zealand, together with
other key donors, need to urgently step up and provide the
assistance their neighbour needs now.

Both Australia
and New Zealand continue to fail to support calls by around
100 countries mainly in the global south for a temporary
waiver of intellectual property rights that would enable
increased production, affordability and accessibility of


According to the World
Health Organisation (WHO) and the Queensland Government,
between 30 and 50 per cent of test results in Papua New
Guinea have been returning a positive result in early March

As of 16 March 2021, the government had reported
26 confirmed deaths and 2269 confirmed cases. The WHO has
noted that severe undertesting means these numbers are
likely to be significantly underestimated/under reported?
and that at least two provinces have widespread community

Papua New Guinea is part of the United
Nations COVAX scheme, which aims to fairly and equitably
deliver vaccines to all countries. However, COVAX has to
date not been resourced enough to ensure poorer countries
are getting access to vaccines. The scheme is being severely
undermined by wealthy countries buying up more vaccines than
they need significantly impacting on the ability to secure
vaccines for other nations.

For more detail on Amnesty
International’s position on ensuring universal access to
Covid-19 diagnostics, treatment and vaccines, see:

see: COVID-19: Pharmaceutical
companies and rich states put lives at risk as vaccine
inequality soars

And: 42
groups and respected experts call on PM to back a ‘Peoples’

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