Australia has been delivering COVID-19 tests to numerous Pacific Island countries to support their pandemic response, foreign affairs minister Marise Payne said on Friday
The procurement and delivery of the testing equipment has been a collaborative effort between Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the Pacific Community, and the World Health Organisation.
Payne said the testing equipment would provide reliable results in less than an hour.
The first deliveries have arrived in Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, and Nauru, and supplies would reach a further nine Pacific Island countries in the coming fortnight.
Australia has also provided PPE, medical and hygiene supplies, assistance with quarantine management, laboratories, pandemic communication, isolation facilities, and emergency response services, Payne said.
Up until now, many Pacific Island countries have had to send specimens overseas for testing, including to Australia. The minister said the support would allow the Pacific Community and the WHO to work with Pacific health departments to better test for the virus.
The equipment has been transported on flights to the Pacific via Australia’s Pacific Corridor, in support of the Pacific Islands Forum’s recently established Pacific Humanitarian Pathway.
Payne said Australia was working with Pacific partners, Timor-Leste, NZ, and regional organisations on the initiative.
“The corridor is enabling essential services and humanitarian assistance to reach the Pacific, through Australia, amid global transport and border restrictions due to the pandemic,” she said.
“In doing this, we are working with Pacific governments to make sure we meet their quarantine requirements, including for 14-days’ quarantine of their nationals in Australia before they return to their countries.”
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She said Australia has been following strict protocols to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus in the region.
Meanwhile, Australia has also joined a “first movers” group, comprised of countries which quickly responded to the coronavirus pandemic, and have now looked to rebooting their economies.
The group includes NZ, Singapore, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Norway, Czech Republic, and Israel.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with other leaders from the group via videoconference on Thursday. He used the meeting to further push for an investigation into the pandemic.