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AUSTRALIA HERE IN PARTNERSHIP AGAINST COVID-19

SAMOA, March 27 - The Australian Government is committed to helping Pacific Island countries respond to COVID-19, where cases emerge in the region. There has never been a more important time for Australia to stand with our 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.

With several cases now recorded in the Pacific, essential Australian personnel are willing to remain in the Pacific, working with partner governments to respond to this regional crisis. Australia’s highest priority in the Pacific is to keep COVID-19 infection rates as low as possible. 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, we have been supporting public information campaigns to advise communities on how to avoid infection. We are providing direct support for laboratories and medical equipment to bolster local services. We are also providing health experts to work with Pacific governments, and support to 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.

As the virus spreads globally, Australia is ramping up efforts with our Pacific partners to respond appropriately. 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.

Australia’s development partnerships remain strong. While the majority of Australia’s aid in the Pacific is delivered by local staff, some contractors Australia works with have withdrawn staff.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. Some critical personnel are continuing to work in your health ministry, hospitals and clinics, alongside your own 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.

Australia is also doing all we can to help Pacific islanders and their families trying to get home. Pacific nationals are able to transit through Australia to Pacific destinations, exempt from restrictions now being applied to travellers 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. If you have any questions about Australia’s support to Samoa my team at the Australian High Commission are here to help.

Australian High Commissioner to Samoa Her Excellency, Ms Sara Moriarty

Australian High Commission, Samoa

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