South Australian authorities have imposed restrictions on residents in the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in the state’s north after COVID-19 was detected in wastewater at Indulkana on Sunday.

An outbreak could be particularly dangerous to vulnerable residents.

A South Australian Health team was sent to the APY Lands in response to the detection to ramp up testing and vaccinations.

The general manager of the APY Lands, Richard King, has been communicating with authorities and told the ABC he felt confident the community was prepared.

“The APY has been monitoring this for a year. We were the first area to close down in February last year,” said Mr King.

“We’ve been testing the wastewater since 2020 to see if it’s going to show up there . . . What this does, it gives us a red flag and now we go out and investigate.”

The Nganampa Health Council has steady figures of vaccination rates with approximately 80 per cent of the community fully vaccinated and just over 90 per cent single dose.

It has been reported that residents have been temporarily banned from withdrawing cash from ATMs and limited to buying 20 litres of fuel at a time.

A spokesperson for SA Health told National Indigenous Times that “there were two low positive COVID-19 results detected in wastewater from Indulkana in the APY Lands in the last week”.

They noted the cause “being a person who visited the lands had previously contracted COVID-19, but is no longer infectious, and was shedding the virus”. 

“Out of an abundance of caution, we will be moving to daily wastewater testing across the APY Lands and have sent a rapid response team who will work in partnership with Nganampa Health Council.”

The spokesperson said some of the team travelled on Sunday, and another group arrived on yesterday.

“The team of approximately 20 people will support increased testing and vaccinations for the Indulkana community and are made up of SAAS, SA Health, SA Pathology and RFDS staff,” they said.

“We are assessing the situation closely and will keep the team on the ground on an as needs basis and rotating staff as required.”

By Giovanni Torre