Australia's support continues despite Pandemic
The Australian Government says it will continue to assist Pacific Island countries including Samoa as the global coronavirus pandemic spreads out.
The Australian High Commissioner to Samoa, Sara Moriarty, said there has never been a more important time for Australia to stand with its Pacific family.
“This goes to the heart of Australia’s Pacific “Step Up” – working together to keep our people healthy and safe in uncertain times,” she said in a statement.
The statement released by Ms. Moriarty said with new cases now being recorded in the Pacific, essential Australian personnel are willing to remain in the region to assist Governments.
“Australia’s highest priority in the Pacific is to keep COVID-19 infection rates as low as possible,” she said.
“[Our] advice to Australians not to travel overseas will reduce the risk of exposure for the Pacific.
“Australia continues to work with Samoa across multiple areas to respond to your government’s plan to prepare for, and address, COVID-19.”
Since January, Australia has run public information campaigns to advise communities on avoiding infection.
“We are providing direct support for laboratories and medical equipment to bolster local services,” she said.
“We are also providing health experts to work with Pacific Governments, and [...] the World Health Organisation’s regional preparedness plan for the Pacific.
“The Pacific Islands Forum and the Pacific Community (SPC) are close regional partners in this effort.”
Ms. Moriarty also stressed that as the virus spreads globally, Australia will increase the assistance it offers to Pacific nations at a commensurate level.
“Australia’s large network of High Commissions and Embassies in the Pacific remains open.
“In some cases, non-essential staff will return to Australia, to help reduce the burden on Samoa’s own health system at a time of pressure.
“Our new diplomatic missions in the region, the Australian Embassy in Palau and the Australian High Commission in Cook Islands, also remain open.”
The majority of Australia’s aid in the Pacific is delivered by local staff; some contractors working on Australian projects have withdrawn staff.
The Australian Government has worked quickly to make alternative arrangements to ensure essential experts can stay in the Pacific to continue their important work, in partnership with local staff.
Ms. Moriarty’s statement said that some critical personnel are continuing to work in Samoa’s health ministry, hospitals and clinics, alongside Samoan health workers, as part of a coordinated response.
“Working in partnership with your Government, Australia’s development partnership in Samoa will focus on three areas at this time: support for direct outbreak preparedness and response; support for broader health institutions and systems; and support for broader economic impacts and recovery,” she said.
The High Commissioner said that Australia was also amenable to helping Pacific islanders and their families who are trying to get home despite the border closure currently in effect for Samoa.
“Pacific nationals are able to transit through Australia to Pacific destinations, exempt from restrictions now being applied to travelers from other parts of the world.
“We are also working hard to support Pacific students and workers in Australia to return home if they would like to, where flights allow.
“We remain in daily contact with the Government of Samoa and we will respond to future requests for assistance, as they arise.”