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Prime minister Scott Morrison will close borders from midnight tonight between Papua New Guinea and Cairns due to rising COVID cases in the neighboring country.

Mr. Morrison has stated it was a “very real risk” to Australia, these strict closures will continue for the next fortnight until reassessed. These travel restrictions exclude essential workers and humanitarian aid. 

This is in response to a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the neighboring country. The threat of the virus reaching Australia prompted the PM to redirect 8 000 of the AstraZeneca vaccines from Australia to Papua New Guinea. These will be given to front-line health workers to help tackle the COVID crisis.   

The Australian and Papua New Guinea governments have made a formal request to the European stockholders. They’ve asked that a further one million AstraZeneca vaccines destined for Australia be sent to Papua New Guinea instead.  

“I’ll be appealing to the European Union to let the vaccines go that we have contracted for so we can get that help to Papua New Guinea and every other vaccine we can get out of Europe, that’s where we’ll send it. I’ll send it straight there and to other partners in the Pacific to ensure we’re doing everything we possibly can but we need their help to do that, we need them to lift the block.”  

The initial 8 000 doses will arrive next week. Australia has also donated 100 000 bottles of sanitizer, one million surgical masks, 20 000 face shields, 100 000 gowns, pairs of gloves and masks as well as 200 non-invasive ventilators.   

“Starting at midnight tonight,” said Scott Morrison, earlier today. “We will further reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission from Papua New Guinea to Australia by suspending passenger flights from Papua New Guinea into Cairns.”     

“This is in Australia’s interests and it is in our region’s interests, and it’s incumbent on us as Australians both to secure the health of our own citizens, but equally our PNG family who are so dear to us.”  

“We’ve all said that we need to get vaccines where they’re needed.”     

According to the World Health Organisation (W.H.O), there are currently 2,351 confirmed cases and 26 deaths due to COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea. Due to such a low rate of testing, it’s estimated that the cases of COVID are much higher.