Good morning all, it’s Wednesday, I’m Matilda Boseley, and let’s jump into the day’s news.
You might remember yesterday prime minister Scott Morrison blamed issues with vaccine supplies as the sole reason the federal government has failed to reach their inoculation targets.
Four million Australians were meant to be vaccinated by the end of March but only about 855,000 had received the jab by Monday.
Morrison said this was due to 3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine being blocked from leaving Europe for Australia, “pure and simple.”
But Scott, it looks likes it isn’t that pure or simple because the EU has come out to deny these claims.
A European Commission spokesman said at a news conference on Tuesday the only export request rejected out of nearly 500 received has been a shipment of 250,000 doses to Australia in March, which was well known.
We cannot confirm any new decision to block vaccine exports to Australia or to any other country.
A European Commission spokeswoman told Reuters that while the bloc had rejected only one of 491 Covid-19 vaccine export requests since it enhanced export transparency in late January, seven requests were currently being reviewed – and therefore shipments were on hold until a decision was made.
She declined to say whether a new shipment to Australia was among those being reviewed.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has now just gone on ABC radio and said the EU had made it very clear they weren’t going to allow vaccine exports before its own contracts had been filled, but it doesn’t appear Australia submitted a formal request for more. Frydenberg mentions only the original application for 250,000 doses that was blocked last month and a request for 1 million doses for Papua New Guinea.
Trade minister Dan Tehan has also spoken to the media this morning but was fairly vague on what exports were exactly blocked.
There was an application put in to provide vaccines to Australia and that – that application was blocked*.
Now, what the EU seems to be saying now is that they will not block any future shipments so we should take that as wonderful news**. That means there’s 1 million vaccines hopefully on their way to PNG sooner rather than later and also all the other contracts that we have with AstraZeneca will now be able to be honoured and AstraZeneca will be able to send those to Australia.
*It’s unclear if this is the well-known 250,000 does blocked or the mysterious 3.1m.
**I’m not convinced this is what they were saying.
In Queensland, a well-known Papua New Guinea politician has died of Covid-19 in hospital.
The 77-year-old former Eastern Highlands governor Malcolm Smith contracted Covid-19 in PNG and was flown to Australia for treatment in late March as his condition became life-threatening.
He died on Monday while in the intensive care unit at Redcliffe Hospital, with a number of politicians in both countries expressing their condolences.
Queensland Health says it not unusual to offer medical support for PNG citizens:
PNG is one of Queensland’s closest neighbours, and when we can offer support to our neighbours, we can, and we will …
Since the beginning of the pandemic, aeromedical crews have transferred a number of Covid-positive, and potentially Covid-positive patients to Queensland.
His death will not be counted in the official Australian Covid-19 toll as he was diagnosed in PNG.
With that, why don’t we kickstart the day. There is certainly plenty to cover!