Remote Top End communities closed off to non-essential travel due to coronavirus - ABC News Darwin
Date: Mar 14, 2020
Publication Type: Newsroom
Remote communities in the Northern Territory's Top End have been closed to all non-essential travel in response to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
- Doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers and council workers will not be affected by the ban
- No new permits will be granted until further notice
- The move is to protect Aboriginal people who already face chronic health conditions, lack of resources and overcrowding
The Northern Land Council (NLC) says all existing permits to Top End Aboriginal communities for non-essential travel will be suspended and no new permits will be granted until further notice.
The council said people who provide essential services to the community including doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers and council workers will not be affected by the ban.
Chief executive officer Marion Scrymgour said the move was to protect Aboriginal people in the communities who already faced issues like chronic health conditions, lack of resources and overcrowded housing.
"The NLC has received many calls from community members asking that we do all we can to ensure the safety and protection of Aboriginal people in their communities who are very concerned about the spread of COVID-19," Ms Scrymgour said.
"Should this virus break out in our communities, we don't have the manpower to deal with this."
She said the NLC will be launching an information campaign in Indigenous languages to inform people about hygiene, testing for coronavirus and for them to avoid travel outside communities.
NLC staff have also cancelled their non-essential travel to communities including its regional council meetings.
"Somebody could come out and they could get infected and then go back into the community," Ms Scrymgour said.
"The position we're taking is if we can push back that virus taking hold in our communities, that's a good thing. It means we can work at getting better prepared."
The decision comes after the Northern Territory Government decided it will stop its employees from making non-essential travel to remote communities.
A similar decision has also been made in the APY lands in South Australia, where visitors have been asked to sign statutory declarations about their potential exposure to the virus before being granted access to the region.
The NLC's decision will mean tourist activities like cultural tours will also be cancelled in the Top End region.
By Sowaibah Hanifie