Australia still seeking extra jabs for PNG

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Australia is still pleading with Europe to get one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for Papua New Guinea as it battles a coronavirus outbreak.

"It's a very tense and ongoing discussion," health department boss Brendan Murphy told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Wednesday.

"AstraZeneca are doing everything they can, our diplomatic colleagues are doing everything they can."

Professor Murphy could not say how confident he was the discussions would be successful.

"If we don't succeed in getting any overseas ones we will certainly be discussing with government about whether we can deploy some more of our local product."

Australia has sent 8000 doses to PNG to vaccinate health workers.

The requests for extra doses are being made to other countries where the AstraZeneca vaccine is made, to help PNG vaccinate its broader population.

PNG has stepped up its restrictions after reporting another jump in COVID-19 cases.

Pubs, clubs and gaming sites have been ordered to close, in addition to tighter internal border controls, bans on large gatherings, school closures and mask wearing mandates imposed last week as infections spiked.

The Pacific nation reported 242 new cases as of Saturday, bringing total confirmed cases in the country to 3359.

The death toll was 36.

An Australian medical assistance team has arrived in PNG, with more personal protective equipment and ventilators also sent.

Prof Murphy said vaccination programs were occurring in the Torres Strait to protect those living close to PNG.