COVID explosion on our doorstep ‘a clear and present danger’
The explosion of COVID-19 cases in Papua New Guinea represents a "clear and present danger" to Australia, Health Minister Greg Hunt has warned as Scott Morrison holds a series of urgent meetings with the Pacific Island's leader.
About 40 per cent of the COVID tests being conducted on PNG are coming back with positive results, with its Prime Minister James Marape had entered a "red stage" of the pandemic.
Mr Morrison was forced to leave a Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday morning to deal with an urgent matter related to the situation on PNG.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk spoke to the Prime Minister on Monday night and will again later today, raising concerns with PNG on the doorstep of the state and the Torres Strait.
Mr Morrison told colleagues at the meeting that there were 20,000 deaths from COVID-19 around the world each day, with "grief and tragedy" occurring in many places.
"Sometimes that can be lost on us here in Australia because of how well we've managed the virus and exercised our own good judgment," he said.
Mr Hunt told his colleagues that 40 per cent of samples tested had come back as positive.
He said the situation in PNG was a "clear and present danger".
Daily cases fluctuate significantly, but there is a seven-day average of 84 cases, with 354 being reported on March 14.
Questions on whether there will be enhanced border restrictions with PNG or the Torres Strait, or a sped up rollout of Australian vaccines to the Pacific nation were not raised in the party room meeting.
Opposition Health spokesman Mark Butler said Australia should take action to ensure the disease does not get a hold in PNG, as it was in the national interest as well as being a good neighbour.
He said there should be an urgent roll out of personal protective equipment to PNG, as well as more testing kits.
Mr Butler said there should be consideration given to immediately provide some vaccines to PNG for frontline medical staff.
"This is a very serious concern," he said.
Originally published as COVID explosion on Qld's doorstep 'a clear and present danger'