New Zealand ups Pacific COVID assistance
New Zealand has repurposed $120 million foreign aid to give support to Pacific economies in 2021.
The country’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Nanaia Mahuta and Associate Health and Foreign Affairs Minister Aupito William Sio, announced the change on Monday.
According to New Zealand Government estimates New Zealand will provide protection against COVID-19 for at least 1.2 million people in the Pacific over the coming year.
Minister Nanaia Mahuta stated that this continues their ongoing commitment to support their Pacific neighbours through the increased challenges the COVID-19 pandemic is placing upon the region.
“By working closely with our Pacific neighbours, and other partners, we can provide a further line of defence for our entire region – better protecting us all against the impact of the pandemic which continues to rage across the world,” Minister Nanaia Mahuta said in a statement.
Minister Aupito Williams Sio explained that New Zealand is working with the Realm countries to ensure that everything is in place for the countries to receive and administer safe and effective vaccines at the earliest possible time.
“This work begins with the Cook Islands’ May rollout, which is expected to take 12 weeks to complete, with Niue and Tokelau to follow,” Aupito said.
According to a statement, the delivery of vaccines won’t impact the planned New Zealand domestic rollout.
Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu will also be able to receive enough additional doses from New Zealand’s own portfolio to fully cover their population, as well as any further support they might need for their vaccine rollout.
Fiji has taken up the offer of AstraZeneca doses for 250,000 people donated by New Zealand, subject to regulatory approval.
New Zealand is also joining with Australia and UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund) to procure further vaccines for the Pacific and provide other pandemic support where needed.
The two recently announced a partnership to finance the purchase of 6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the Pacific and Timor-Leste.
Minister Nanaia Mahuta also announced New Zealand is providing further support to assist economic recovery in the Pacific.
“The economic disruption affecting many countries in the Pacific, particularly those that have tourism-focused economies, is unprecedented. This funding will be used by our Pacific neighbours to help households get through this crisis, and support businesses to manage the uncertainty of closed borders,” Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.
Australia had also recently announced assistance to the region, with Samoa set to receive AU$39.7 million (WST$79.5 million) in an increase in funding from Australia’s foreign aid budget.