Expert warns it’s too early to ditch Covid-19 isolation rules due to vulnerable Indigenous communities
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The Northern Territory's peak Aboriginal health body has panned the Australian government’s decision to scrap Covid-19 isolation rules, fearing it will leave Indigenous communities too vulnerable.
ABC News reported that the chief executive of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT), John Paterson said it was ‘too early’ to lift isolation rules following Anthony Albanese's announcement last week.
He told ABC Radio Darwin: "We've had more Aboriginal deaths in the Northern Territory from Covid than non-Aboriginal people.
"We have to ensure that we keep the most at-risk population safe and prevent this very serious virus from entering into our vulnerable communities."
Mr Paterson urged regulations to still be in place to allow health care workers to treat Aboriginal patients with pre-existing health conditions that were neglected during the pandemic.
He said: "With the [Covid-19] numbers slowly declining here in the Northern Territory, it's giving our clinicians an opportunity to start to address those patients with other chronic illnesses.
"AMSANT's concern is that there is high risk that the virus will spread, and we won't have any mandatory requirements in place."
ABC News also reported in January that nine out of 10 Covid-19 patients were Indigenous, despite Aboriginal people only making up 30 per cent of the NT's population, .
Mr Paterson said it was ‘alarming’ as they were more likely to experience severe symptoms due to underlying chronic illnesses.
The national cabinet also faced similar criticism earlier this year by NT Indigenous organisations who called for stricter enforcement to combat the growing number of transmissions in the community, as per SBS News.
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Central Land Council (CLC), Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) and Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation penned an open letter in January demanding an immediate lockdown.
The organisations told NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner there had been ‘significant failure’ by government bodies which led to a spike in cases.
“This has directly led to Covid spreading out of control in the Aboriginal communities of Central Australia and beyond,” they wrote according to SBS News.
“We don’t think we should have been put in the situation where it is primarily Aboriginal people who are being asked to take the risk that Omicron is only a mild virus, when public health measures properly implemented could have prevented many of the cases we are now seeing.”
The open letter also pointed out the numerous failures, including the late introduction of mask mandates, lack of testing resources and contact tracing, and inadequate support from the federal government.