Further boost in COVID-19 aid for global neighbours warmly welcomed

End COVID For All spokesperson Rev Tim Costello welcomes the Australian Government’s increase in aid to address global vaccine inequity as well as the extension of key pandemic support packages for the Indo-Pacific.‍

In last night’s 2022-23 Federal Budget, Australia’s aid budget rose from $4.335b to $4.549b.

A new two-year investment of $324.4m to provide economic and social support to aid COVID-19 recovery in the Pacific and Timor Leste was announced, as well as a further $85m for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment to provide the poorest 92 countries access to safe vaccines.

“From the outset of the pandemic – as we saw COVID-19 migrate and mutate from the cosmopolitan hubs of Milan and New York, to the packed slums of Dehli and the struggling health system in Port Moresby – we knew the world’s poor would be hit hard,” said Rev Tim Costello.

“And so we’ve said all along, ‘this doesn’t end for anyone, until it ends for everyone.’

“We welcome Australia’s increase in aid to address global vaccine inequity and the economic impacts of the pandemic at a critical time for both those nations and ours.

“Thanks to our access to vaccines, most Australians are now living without fear of death or serious illness from COVID-19. However, that is not the case around the world.

“In the past week, COVID case numbers have surged in Samoa and Vanuatu. Samoa has introduced a strict lockdown and closed its borders, while Vanuatu has brought in daytime movement restrictions and a 6pm to 6am curfew‍

“Logistics and supply chains are being disrupted and already fragile health systems are being pushed to their limits.

“Australians lived through this just months ago and we know the solution is through a combination of financial support and vaccine delivery.

“In Vanuatu, fewer than 37 per cent of the adult population is fully vaccinated. Without urgent assistance, this rate is unlikely to reach an acceptable level anytime soon.

“In other developing countries, the situation is even more dire. Just 14.5 per cent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.

“The longer we leave COVID to run rampant in developing countries, the more chance it has to mutate into more deadly and vaccine resistant forms.‍

“Many of us believed we had defeated COVID in Australia until the Delta and Omicron variants emerged from the largely unvaccinated regions of India and Southern Africa respectively.‍

“We cannot rest on our laurels. There is much work to be done to not only strengthen health systems globally but to secure Australia’s economic and health security and avoid economically-disastrous lockdowns, particularly at a time where we face rapidly rising costs of living.

“As Australia prepares to join other world leaders for an emergency COVAX AMC Summit on 8 April to be hosted by Germany, we call on the Australian Government to increase this new investment in COVAX from $85 million up to $250 million to help deliver and distribute vaccines across the world.

“This is the best global mechanism Australia can invest in to equitably deliver vaccines into arms in the Pacific and across the world.”