Donor countries announce support for Pacific hospitals

8:06 pm on 2 April 2020

China has donated money and medical equipment to hospitals in both Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, while Australia has also donated expertise, resources and support.

In Port Moresby on Wednesday, the Chinese ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Xue Bing, presented a US$300,000 cheque to foreign minister Patrick Pruaitch.

Mr Xue said the donation - which goes to Port Moresby General Hospital - was a reciprocal gesture in return for PNG's support since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in the city of Wuhan.

China's Ambassador in Papua New Guinea, Xue Bing, presents a cheque to PNG's Foreign Minister Patrick Pruaitch at Port Moresby General Hospital.

China's Ambassador in Papua New Guinea, Xue Bing, presents a cheque to PNG's Foreign Minister Patrick Pruaitch at Port Moresby General Hospital. Photo: Yumi FM

He said as well as funding support, China would also provide protective equipment for staff including masks, protective clothing, goggles and temperature sensors, as well as coronavirus testing kits.

However, Mr Xue said the export of the items to PNG would have to wait until current restrictions on air travel were uplifted.

Meanwhile in Honiara, the Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare, in a statement, said China had donated US$300,000 and 125,000 pairs of gloves to his country's Covid-19 response effort.

Mr Sogavare said the money would be used to purchase Covid-19 testing kits and laboratory equipment.

Solomon Islands last year switched its diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China, but not to be outdone, Taiwan also announced funding for its Pacific allies, with Taipei also sending kits and testing machines to countries including Nauru and Palau.

On Wednesday, Australia's minister for the Pacific, Alex Hawke, said his country was committed to tackling Covid-19 with its Pacific partners, as part of its Pacific step-up strategy.

"We have never faced a challenge of the scale of Covid-19, but we will combat it together as a Pacific family," the statement read.

Mr Hawke said Australia was supporting the Pacific through the closure of its borders, while still facilitating Pacific people in transit to return home with enhanced health screening. He added that his government was working to create a humanitarian and essential services corridor to the Pacific.

He said Australia was also providing expertise across the region, and helping regional governments with laboratories, medical equipment, health expertise, public information campaigns and support for national plans.

Canberra has also reoriented its development programme to support health services and mitigate the economic shock of the pandemic.

Australia's high commissioner to Solomon Islands, Lachlan Strahan, said in a post on Twitter that prime minister Scott Morrison had pledged US$8.4 million to Solomon Islands to boost its efforts.