The ADF has increased the number of personnel on the ground supporting the Papua New Guinea Government’s COVID-19 response as part of Operation PNG Assist. 

Fourteen personnel recently joined the six already in PNG to form a 20-strong team providing vaccine training and logistics support to the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF).

This is on top of the five ADF planners deployed in August, bringing the total ADF contribution to Operation PNG Assist 21-1 to 25 personnel.

The deployment followed a request from the Government of Papua New Guinea, which included expanding the AUSMAT team of health and logistics experts to 13. 

Commander 1st Division and Deployable Joint Force Headquarters Major General Jake Ellwood said Defence’s increasing support was testament to Australia’s commitment to help PNG manage the spread of COVID-19.

“Tackling COVID-19 is a global challenge and we are proud to contribute additional specialist capacity and expertise, with our ADF personnel working alongside our PNGDF partners to help them in this fight,” Major General Ellwood said. 

“Australia has a proven track record of stepping up to security and humanitarian challenges in our region, founded on strong and enduring partnerships with our Pacific family.”

Defence has supported PNG’s COVID-19 response through the transportation of vaccines, supplies and personnel from Australia; providing specialist health, logistics and planning staff to support the PNGDF and provincial health authorities with the vaccine rollout; refurbishing key facilities, establishing quarantine accommodation sites, and improving key infrastructure with the PNGDF.

“Together, we are sharing our respective COVID-19 experiences, enabling stronger responses across our region,” Major General Ellwood said.

The new contingent will be deployed on Operation PNG Assist for at least three months.