People will have to sign a statutory declaration to enter the APY Lands. (Australian Story: Mayeta Clark)
A group of remote South Australian communities has sought to restrict visitor access as the coronavirus continues to spread throughout Australia.
- The APY Lands general manager says the move is about protecting vulnerable people
- The Minister for Indigenous Australians says he thinks it’s a “sensible move”
- There are now more than 50 recorded cases of COVID-19 in Australia
The APY Lands, which covers several remote Indigenous communities, has asked visitors to sign statutory declarations about their potential exposure to the virus, before being granted access to the region.
The move came after the number of confirmed cases in South Australia reached seven, including a baby boy who was diagnosed yesterday.
There are now more than 50 recorded cases of COVID-19 in Australia.
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said it was a sensible move. (ABC News: Tim Leslie)
Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt yesterday said given the isolation of the area and vulnerability of older people, it was a sensible move.
“They’re making the right decision to make sure they’re not exposed to something that can cause major health problems and ultimately in some cases death,” he said.
“And I think it’s a great stance by them and it’s a proactive stance.”
He said he had been notified that the APY Lands wanted to close off access to outsiders and only allow restricted access, with strict conditions.
He said the Federal Government would work with them in their bid to prevent an outbreak in the region.
“What they want to do is restrict access of entry which is showing that they’re forward-thinking, they’re understanding of what the implications are and they’re making a decision,” he said.
“In this instance, both the Commonwealth and the territory government would work closely to ensure that we don’t have infections in remote and isolated communities.”
APY Lands general manager Richard King said people would simply have to sign a statutory declaration before being granted access to the remote communities.
“We want people to sign a stat dec saying that they haven’t been to any of the infected countries, haven’t been in contact with anyone who is infected with coronavirus and is not going to be travelling in the next six months,” he said.
“What we want to do is not allow people who may be bringing that virus in, to not affect the population.”
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‘Coronavirus would devastate our community’
Mr King said the move was all about keeping some of Australia’s most vulnerable people safe, particularly older Aboriginal people from the area.
“The reason we’re taking this step is because we’ve got, among our constituents, a vulnerable group of people, most of them with comorbidity,” he said.
“We’ve already got a very low mortality rate, coronavirus would devastate our community, taking out most of our elders, our leaders, our holders of cultural knowledge.”
He said his greatest fear was that the remote region would lose those who could pass on “cultural knowledge” to the next generation.
Mr Wyatt said he saw sense in restricting the number of people visiting the remote South Australian communities.
“Because often you’ll have public servants from state and Commonwealth agencies, you will have tourists going through the area,” he said.
“[APY Lands] will make a decision to shut down an area or appeal to government agencies not to go out there during the most vulnerable period when the peak of any infection occurs.”
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