COVID-19

NT senator’s family riddled with Covid

The Covid-19 outbreak in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory is “our worst fears realised”, Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy said, with more urgent action required to keep First Nations people safe.Her call came just as Health Minister Greg Hunt enacted a ban on people entering and leaving Robinson River and surrounding homelands in a bid to stop further Covid-19 spread. The NT recorded nine new cases of the virus on Tuesday – all in Indigenous people – bringing the total number of cases in the Katherine and Robinson River outbreak to 11. Two of the new cases are in five-year-old twins, while the oldest case is 71.Senator McCarthy, whose sister was the first person to test positive in the remote Robinson River area, confirmed all nine new cases on Tuesday were family members, but she was “proud” they had all been double vaccinated. Only one person is in hospital, while the rest are isolating at Howard Springs.Speaking to the Nine network on Wednesday, Senator McCarthy said due to rampant vaccine misinformation and hesitancy, any new cases could have more serious illness. “This is perhaps our worst fears realised, really, in terms of First Nations communities,” she said. “(Misinformation) has very much so (been a drama). We do have to recall that our First Nations people were in the higher-rated priority for the vaccination. I despair that never occurred.“We have been too slow as a country, in terms of the federal government, in terms of the messaging with the language. Too slow. “In the meantime, there’s been a gap where you have had negative messaging come in through Facebook and social media.”Senator McCarthy said misinformation had been targeted towards Indigenous people from “overseas right-wing extremists but also from backbenchers of Scott Morrison’s government”. With leaders now bracing themselves for the possibility of widespread seeding, Senator McCarthy said the Territory needed “immediate support” for housing, given the First Nations overcrowding issue.“How can people isolate when there are 15 to 20 people to a house for starters?” she told ABC Breakfast. “(What) I’ve picked up in the last couple of days is the shame and the fear that comes with once you do have Covid, how to speak about where you have been and the interaction that you have had with different people, and I’m encouraging not only my family members, but others, that when contact tracers come to you, please, tell them everything because at the moment our deepest fear here is that it has spread across the Territory.”As of Wednesday, 84.4 per cent of NT residents have had one dose of the vaccine, while 71 per cent are fully vaccinated. The rate of vaccination in Katherine is lower, with just 68.4 per cent having had one dose and just 54 per cent fully vaccinated. Katherine will remain in lockdown until at least Monday, with a mask mandate in place for the entire territory.The Robinson River will remain in a bubble enacted by Mr Hunt until 6pm on Thursday. He said the determination, under section 477 of the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act, had been requested by the Northern Territory Government. “These measures will help to prevent and contain the current Covid-19 outbreak in the Robinson River, and will assist in preventing the emergence, establishment and spread of the disease to neighbouring remote communities in the Northern Territory,” Mr Hunt said. “All residents of Robinson River are encouraged to continue to follow their local health department directions, to be tested in the coming days, and to book their vaccinations.“The measures … will be in place only as long as necessary to keep the community safe.”

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