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New Papua New Guinea variant of COVID-19 detected in Queensland

Health authorities in Queensland have detected a new variant of COVID-19 from Papua New Guinea, which is in the grips of a dire coronavirus outbreak.

Queensland Health says that it has been notified of 64 cases of COVID-19 in travellers with a history of travel in or transit through Papua New Guinea.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation and as the pandemic is ongoing, we have continued to see new variants emerge, such as the UK and South African variants,” a Queensland Health spokesperson told 7NEWS.com.au.

“Currently the variant most commonly detected in travellers from Papua New Guinea is the B.1.466.2 lineage, which is not a lineage of concern.

“This is the new name for the specific B.1 strain mentioned as circulating in PNG.”

Papua New Guinea has recorded a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Credit: AAP

Australia weighs extra COVID jabs for PNG

More Australian-made coronavirus vaccines could be sent to PNG, which is just kilometres from Australia’s northernmost islands, and faces a worsening crisis with hundreds of new cases recorded each day despite low testing rates.

While the federal government has delivered an initial 8480 doses of the AstraZeneca jab, more locally produced stocks could be sent to Australia’s northern neighbour.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson said the government was aware of the urgency of the situation.

“The possibility of some of Australia’s domestically produced stocks being able to be used for this purpose is certainly something that is live but yet formally to be decided by government,” she said on Thursday.

RAF personnel load vaccinations onto an aircraft earlier this week.
Australia is weighing up sending more locally made coronavirus vaccines to Papua New Guinea. Credit: AAP

Pharmaceutical giant CSL is contracted to manufacture 50 million AstraZeneca doses in Melbourne during the year.

Greens senator Janet Rice told a Senate estimates hearing there was an urgent and dire need for vaccines in Papua New Guinea.

“We’ve got this absolute tragedy unfolding in PNG,” she said.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne indicated cabinet would consider the issue of sending more Australian-made vaccines.

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