By ERWIN CHLANDA
“Details of remote community plans are still being worked out.”
That is the answer from SecureNT to questions from the Alice Springs News about what appears to be the elephant in the room in the quest for preventing a Coronavirus outbreak: Overcrowding, poor hygiene and inadequate health facilities in remote communities.
A spokesperson for SecureNT says “there are currently no cases in Alice Springs” and a strategy for the bush is still a work in progress.
These are the questions we asked:–
• If the virus enters a remote a community of (say) 300 people, how many people are likely to be infected within three days?
• How many people are likely to be in touch with the infected person(s) and consequently require two weeks’ isolation quarantine?
• How many small communities have the medical facilities to cope with the care requirements?
• How many small communities have the medical facilities to cope with the quarantine requirements?
• Are there processes for isolating these communities? If so, how would they work?
• Are there measures in place to stop people from leaving these communities and if so, what are they?
• For people requiring quarantine but are either unwilling or unable to self-quarantine, what measures are in place?
• How many places are there in Alice Springs for (a) treating infected people and (b) quarantining people for two weeks?
UPDATE March 15
The Northern Land Council (NLC) will not be issuing permits for travel to land in the Northern Territory over which it has control, in a bid to protect the area from the Coronavirus.
The NLC constituency has about 36,000 Aboriginal residents, 80% of them living in regional and remote areas in about 200 communities ranging in size from small family outstations to communities with populations of about 3000 people.
The NLC said today: “COVID-19 – Suspension of all permits to enter Aboriginal land for non-essential travel.
“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic all non-essential travel to Aboriginal communities is to be avoided.
“The NLC has determined that all existing non-essential permits to Top End Aboriginal communities will be suspended and no new non-essential travel permits will be granted until further notice.”
Only two days ago the NT Government has declared “NT Borders are not closing”. Now a significant part of the NT is off-limits except for its residents and people performing essential functions.
UPDATE March 15, 4.50pm
Chief Minister Michael Gunners released the following statement:
There is no community spread of the virus in the Territory to date. The National Cabinet resolved to enact a series of measures effective from midnight tonight, enforceable by Federal, State and Territory law:
• There will be a universal precautionary self-isolation requirement of 14 days for all international arrivals. This requirement will stay in place until further notice.
• The Federal Government will ban cruise ships for an initial period of 30 days.
• Static non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people will be prevented. This requirement will stay in place until further notice.
SecureNT will provide a risk assessment tool that businesses and organisations can use to judge the clinical risk associated with an event.
Government schools across the NT will remain open.
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