PNG border reopening

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Community of Saibai Island in the Torres Strait which is just 4km from Papua New Guinea (Supplied J'Belle Foster)

Community of Saibai Island in the Torres Strait which is just 4km from Papua New Guinea (Supplied J'Belle Foster)

Summary

  • The PNG border is due to reopen soon after being closed due to COVID-19
  • TCHHS is experienced in managing PNG nationals’ healthcare
  • Torres Strait Islander and PNG residents have high COVID-19 vaccination rates

The Federal Government has held discussions with the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service and other stakeholders in the Torres Strait over the proposed reopening of the border with Papua New Guinea.

The border has been closed since March 2020, including for traditional purposes in the Torres Strait Protected Zone.

Border control is the responsibility of the Commonwealth.

We are aware of the potential risk of transmission of COVID-19 and other diseases from Papua New Guinea and have robust systems in place to manage any cases of infectious diseases.

Our staff are experienced in managing the care of PNG nationals crossing the border to access emergency health care.

Our health service also has close relationships and networks with the Australian Defence Force, Queensland Police, Australian Border Force, as well as district and local disaster management groups, to ensure a swift and coordinated response to any health incident in the region.

The provision of health services to PNG nationals residing in PNG is the responsibility of the PNG Government and not Queensland’s health system.

However, all Queensland Department of Health facilities, including those in the Torres Strait, provide emergency treatment according to relevant humanitarian principles, legislation, regulations, and agreements, regardless of nationality or personal circumstances.

Any PNG nationals that present to health facilities in the Torres Strait are treated according to clinical need. This situation has not changed.

If deemed clinically necessary, PNG nationals presenting to any island health facilities in the Torres Strait will be evacuated by air to a larger facility such as Thursday Island Hospital or Cairns Hospital for assessment and treatment.

Once their condition has been stabilised and it is deemed clinically safe to do so, they are referred back to the appropriate health authorities in PNG with notes for follow-up care.

Our communities in the Torres Strait are well vaccinated against COVID-19, with 86 per cent of eligible Torres Strait residents aged 12 years and older having received at least two doses of vaccine.

The island communities closest to PNG are also highly vaccinated, with 93 per cent of eligible residents on Boigu Island having received at least two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, 90 per cent on Dauan and 82 per cent on Saibai Island.

To date, the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service has recorded 7789 cases of COVID- 19, of which 2445 cases were in the Torres Strait.

Across the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service, we have recorded four COVID-19- related deaths.

None of these were in the Torres Strait.

Currently, there are NO recorded active COVID-19 cases in the Torres Strait.

Adult and child vaccinations for both COVID and influenza remain available at all Cape York, Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area health facilities for those who require them.

Vaccination bookings can be made through your local hospital, primary healthcare centre or community pharmacy but walk-ins are also welcome at all our facilities and clinics.

For the phone number of your nearest health facility, visit Hospitals and health centres

Testing for COVID-19 is available for FREE at all Torres and Cape HHS health facilities through a combination of Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests.

RAT tests are available at all our facilities for community members to take home and use if they feel comfortable doing so, or a healthcare worker can assist them to do the test at the facility.

Media enquires phone (07) 3708 5379.