The Northern Territory Government has asked that all non-essential trips to remote communities are cancelled in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Indigenous people are at a far greater risk of suffering elevated rates and severity of influenza, and are at a higher risk of developing pneumonia as a complication, as identified in 2016 from a Communicable Diseases Intelligence article.

The article also noted Indigenous people are more likely to have chronic health conditions that make them more susceptible to viruses, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

The World Health Organisation has said pneumonia is the leading complication causing death from the COVID-19 virus, putting Indigenous people in the high-risk category.

The Northern Land Council (NLC) has supported the NT Government’s decision to cancel any non-essential trips to remote Indigenous communities. The NLC’s Executive Officer Marion Scrymgour has asked that all workers cancel their trips.

“We agree with the NT Government’s decision to ask all workers to cancel their trips if they are not essential and the same goes for NLC staff,” Scrymgour said.

NLC is concerned any non-essential travel could impact NLC staff and individuals living in communities. Steps have been taken to ensure that any NLC employees who have travelled overseas recently do not visit communities without clearance.

NLC Chair Samuel Bush–Blanasi said it is critical the most relevant and important information is provided to remote communities to ensure safety for all.

“We want people to really think about their need to visit remote communities. Especially if they have returned from an at-risk country they must not travel to Aboriginal communities and must take every precaution,” Bush–Blanasi said.

The National Treaties Summit was also cancelled this week due to risk of the virus. The Summit was scheduled to take place from April 16 to 18. A statement from host, National Native Title Council, said the summit will go ahead at a future date but the date is unconfirmed.

“We can confirm that the Summit will go ahead at a later date, which is yet to be decided. We will notify you as soon as these details are confirmed, and we hope you can join us at this later date,” a statement from the Council read.

By Caris Duncan