Australia, US prepare for potential biosecurity attacks

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Malcolm Turnbull & Greg Hunt
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (L) stands with Australia's Environment Minister Greg Hunt during a media conference in Sydney, Australia, March 23, 2016. Reuters/David Gray

Australia has placed $27 million into strengthening a response to a national health emergency in case of a contagious disease outbreak or bioterrorist attack. The Turnbull government is reportedly ensuring the nation is prepared, although the likelihood of such threat here is low.

On a statement released on Sunday, Health Minister Greg Hunt said that the security and safety of every single Aussie is the government’s main priority. In the United States, the Trump administration has developed its first comprehensive strategy against possible biological attacks by terrorists and disease pandemics, a top White House homeland security official revealed.

“We have not had as a country a comprehensive bio-defense strategy ever,” White House homeland security adviser Thomas Bossert said at the annual Aspen Security Forum, in Aspen, Colorado. He added it is time to have a bio-defense strategy.

The Trump administration was slammed by experts for seeking reductions in funding for global health programs. They argued it would negatively impact the nation’s ability to prevent and respond to biological threats such as pandemics.

But Bossert revealed the administration plans to give “full-throated support” to the Global Health Security Agenda, Reuters reports. It is a partnership of over 50 countries and international organisations working to build nations’ capacities to prevent and fight infectious diseases.

Meanwhile, recent data has revealed Australia is failing to tackle a national tragedy that is suicide. Over 3,000 people die by suicide every year. Eight in ten of them are males.

The figure is more than double the number of deaths on Aussie roads. Suicide is considered one of the leading causes of death for people 15 and 44 years old, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull claimed last year "no stone would be left unturned" in an effort to reduce suicide cases.

The country’s health care system was praised around the world for its safety, efficiency, and healthcare outcomes for patients. Australia was among the top-ranked countries on preventative measures and patient engagement.

But when it comes to equity, the nation ranked low. One in 10 Aussies struggled to access medical care because of cost in the past year, a factor that saw Australia slide down the rankings to seventh in the category measuring equity."All self-congratulations and praise should be tempered by the realisation that Australia ranks very poorly on equity," the Sydney Morning Herald quotes University of Sydney's Dr Lesley Russell as saying.

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