The Federal Government has made $57.8 million in grants available to remote communities to help them combat the spread of COVID-19.

The 45 flexible grants are part of the Government’s Remote Community Preparedness and Retrieval package.

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said the Government is focused on ensuring remote Indigenous communities are protected against an outbreak of the virus.

“We know that isolation and remoteness may help delay an outbreak of COVID-19 in remote Indigenous communities,” Minister Hunt said.

“Nonetheless, the Government is committed to playing its role in protecting communities and ensuring appropriate steps are taken to delay or prevent an outbreak … in these areas.”

“We are empowering local communities to take the steps they think are necessary to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, said the grants will enable culturally safe measures to be developed and installed in communities.

“It’s important that remote communities will have the opportunity to develop local, flexible solutions in planning their response to COVID-19,” Minister Wyatt said.

“By implementing local solutions, we can make it easier to ensure people in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can access the support they need.”

“The Government’s number one priority is to keep all Australians safe, and this of course includes our Indigenous communities, especially those in regional and remote areas, where many already live with major chronic diseases.”

Travel in and out of remote communities has been restricted at the recommendations of Indigenous leaders and communities, as well as the Government.

These restrictions limit the ability of those coming from contaminated areas to spread COVID-19 into remote communities.

Members of community who are away have been encourage to self-isolate for two weeks, outside of their community, upon their return home.

The Remote Community Preparedness and Retrieval package is part of a broader $2.4 billion health package to fight COVID-19, which includes new GP respiratory clinics.

“The respiratory clinics will help assess people with mild to moderate fever and respiratory symptoms away from hospitals and other general practices,” Minister Hunt said.

“The clinics won’t cost people anything to use them – and we will ensure they are culturally appropriate.”

Some of these clinics will be operated by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services with mobile options to respond to community needs. The Federal Government is investing $6.9 million through the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).

By Rachael Knowles