Clive’s top-secret coronavirus mission
BILLIONAIRE Clive Palmer has mobilised a $50 million secret overseas mission to source 26 million tablets to help fight coronavirus as part of a global race for the drug.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said Mr Palmer's "generous" offer to buy malaria drug hydroxychloroquine had been accepted and would complement the Federal Government's plan to try to beat the pandemic.
Mr Hunt said the drugs brought by Mr Palmer would be donated to the national medical stockpile to be distributed by the Government.
Mr Palmer, who has had six weeks of Chinese newspaper articles on the coronavirus translated, said he had dispatched 10 people to secret locations across the globe and would bring back the highly sought after drugs on a private jet.
There are a number of trials - including in Australia - of using hydroxychloroquine to prevent contracting the disease or giving it to patients to limit their symptoms.
It could be up to six months before trials are finalised but if dramatic, successful results are realised sooner, it could be rolled out in two-three months to ease the health implications and economic lockdowns.
Asked about his motivations, Mr Palmer said: "Australia has been good to me. I'm sure you would help your neighbours if they were in trouble."
When asked where he had dispatched people to source the drug, Mr Palmer said: "I can't tell you because the US State Department will be there the next day.
"We know we don't have a lot of ventilators (and) we know this drug has been approved.
"At the moment there is a huge demand (for the drug) across the world. It could save millions of lives."
Mr Palmer said the 26 million tablets would be "enough for one million Australians".
"The bottom line is if (the trial is unsuccessful) I'll lose all that money. I've budgeted $50 million but I'm doing anything I can," he said.
"Because I'm not the Government, I don't have to go through all the bureaucracy."
Mr Palmer said countries such as Jordan, the US and France were already using the drug and he did not want Australians to miss out on the treatment because of a shortage.
Mr Palmer said he was hopeful of securing and retrieving the drugs in the coming weeks.
Mr Hunt, who has been lauded for his handling of the Australian coronavirus outbreak response, said the Government was also sourcing the drugs, supporting trials and gearing up to ensure there were options to help manufacture the drugs in Australia if need be.
"(The trials) have potential so we are support both trials (in Australia),'' Mr Hunt said, adding some could be done at record speed.
Mr Hunt said the Government was "grateful" for Mr Palmer's offer.
Originally published as Clive's top-secret coronavirus mission