The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has replaced a planning team of three with another group of five personnel to support the efforts of provincial health authorities responding to the COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea.
Outgoing Contingent Commander Major Peter Southern said the original ADF team successfully assisted with operations, logistics and health support for the PNG led vaccination rollout in the country’s Western Province. This had resulted in increased community COVID-19 vaccination rates, he added.
“We coordinated rotary wing assistance to get vaccines into remote locations, enhanced access to medical facilities through a new bridge and jetty, worked with PNG authorities to introduce new planning tools and build a bespoke database for vaccination tracking,” Major Southern said.
On Friday, the ADF announced that five personnel from the Army, Air Force and Navy had been deployed to replace the original group under the command of RAN Commander Matt Curnow. They have recently completed mandatory quarantine in PNG and will continue to assist in the vaccine rollout efforts for the Western and Marobe provinces.
“Our team has hit the ground running and we look forward to working with the PNG Defence Force and Provincial Health Authorities as they continue to contribute to the PNG Government’s COVID-19 response,” Curnow said.
In addition to the planning team for Operation PNG Assist, a total of 41 other ADF (military and APS) personnel have been supporting the PNG Defence Cooperation Program during the pandemic. These forces have worked in partnership with the PNG military to help refurbish facilities that support social distancing and business continuity.
The ADF has also helped establish quarantine accommodation sites in PNG, providing supplies, medical equipment, and extra commercial air and sea transport to take people and stores to remote locations.
Major Southern said it was rewarding to know that Australia’s partnership with PNG responding to the COVID-19 crisis was helping to save more lives.
“We supported the PNG Government’s efforts to bring vaccination messaging into remote communities and saw locals listen to and act on the information, raising their sleeves to get the jab. It was very rewarding,” he said.