Palm Island is the latest Indigenous community to restrict visitation during the coronavirus pandemic. (ABC News: Dwayne Wyles)
A North Queensland island is pleading for non-essential visitors and sick locals to stay away in a bid to protect vulnerable residents from coronavirus.
- North Queensland’s Palm Island joins a growing list of Indigenous communities restricting visitors over coronavirus fears
- Indigenous communities in the NT, SA, and other parts of Queensland are restricting visitation to all but essential service deliveries
- The Rural Doctors Association urges Governments to ensure remote communities have adequate health resources
Palm Island, off the Townsville coast, has limited travel to people who deliver essential services.
Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council said people should not travel to the island if they have been diagnosed with or suspected to have coronavirus.
They must not have travelled overseas, been unwell, or been in close contact with someone who has travelled or felt sick in the past 14 days.
The council said the measures were for the health and safety of residents.
“There’s no legal requirement. We’re just asking for people’s support in relation to this,” acting CEO Ross Higgins said.
“We will be working with the transport companies that come here … we are asking the people to take notice.”
Travel to Palm Island will be limited to people involved in providing essential services to residents during the coronavirus uncertainty. (ABC News: Dwayne Wyles)
Remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, South Australia, and Queensland are also restricting visitation.
Students from boarding schools across north and far north Queensland are returning to their homes.
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
Restrictions spark tension
The Ang-Gnarra Aboriginal Corporation is the trustee of the traditional land in Laura, a township in Cape York Peninsula.
It has closed its roadhouse, caravan park, and cultural centre and cancelled rock art tours and the Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival.
“Our board decided to ban all visitors into our community here of Laura,” the corporation’s CEO August Stevens said.
“We have a lot of our elderly people concerned.
“We have one gentleman who’s actually isolated himself out in a bush camp, which is understandable, because he has heart issues.
“We’ve asked government departments to assist us by any face-to-face business be cancelled or carried out by telephone or email.”
Dancers perform at the Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival in Cape York, North Queensland. (AAP: Dave Hunt)
Harold Taverner, who runs the Laura store and motel, said the corporation did not have the right to tell people they cannot stop at Laura.
“They are not the law,” Mr Taverner said.
“You’re going to have fewer people travelling anyhow.
“Laura is a pretty well low-risk area and what we will be doing to make it lower risk is putting handwash at the diesel bowsers.”
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
‘COVID will get into some communities’
President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia John Hall said he was concerned about the lack of health resources in remote Indigenous communities.
“We know that it’s still quite likely that, despite our best efforts, COVID will get into some communities,” he said.
“We are calling on the Government to make sure that these communities are well prepared … to staff our hospitals but also [provide enough] equipment.”
He welcomed the growing number of Indigenous communities restricting visitation.
“We need to be doing everything we can as a community to quarantine these areas.”
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