Federal Government must do more to aid Pacific COVID recovery

Monday, November 22, 2021

End COVID For All is calling on the Federal Government to provide urgent COVID support for the Pacific with new research showing some Pacific countries will take years to vaccinate half of their population.

The Lowy Institute modelling paints an even more dire picture for Papua New Guinea, which is predicted to vaccinate just one-third of its population over the next five years.

End COVID For All spokesperson Reverend Tim Costello said this threatens the region’s recovery from the pandemic and risks losing decades of development gains.

“Papua New Guinea is currently battling a disastrous Delta outbreak yet only has around three per cent of its eligible population vaccinated.

“Solomon Islands is forecast to have less than a quarter of its adult population vaccinated by the end of the year and Vanuatu is predicted to vaccinate just 29 per cent of its adult population.

“This is not only a dangerous situation for those countries but puts the entire region and the world at risk.

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

“At the same time, Australia is set to open its borders to Pacific countries through the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme.

“The PALM scheme allows eligible employers to recruit workers from nine Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste when there are not enough Australian workers available.

“Without aid from the Australian Government, it will likely be years before many Pacific countries can genuinely be classified as low risk of COVID.

“Right now, it is a race against time with key support packages from the Australian Government due to expire. The COVID-19 Pacific Response Package will end in just over six months.

“This is simply too soon and does not correspond with the prolonged health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

“We can provide practical support to our neighbours through vaccine-sharing, economic support and Australian expertise to accelerate the recovery and strengthen critical partnerships.

“In the Pacific, we know supply is not as much the issue as demand is. That’s why we are calling for a further $50 million for initiatives to address vaccine hesitancy in the region.

“Of course COVID-19 does not respect regional boundaries, and so beyond our immediate Pacific neighbourhood, the Australian Government should commit to providing our fair share of assistance to the global effort, including contributing vaccine doses as well as $250 million to the international vaccine sharing facility, COVAX.

“We can and must do more to help end COVID globally.”

Contact: Taylah Hill 0466 657 833