Remote Aboriginal Communities Are Enduring A Hard Lockdown In 40 Degree Northern Territory Heat
"We have heard so many times overseas that many thousands of people, probably millions of people lost their lives, and now it's nearly close to communities right here."
Remote Northern Territory areas are experiencing lockdown in sweltering heat amid a COVID cluster that’s swept through the area in the past week.
Residents in Binjari and neighbouring Rockhole are living under some of the strictest lockdown restrictions enforced country-wide, according to the ABC. The small Aboriginal communities are not allowed to leave their homes except for medical, emergency, or legal reasons until December 4, after nine positive cases were detected in Binjari, where approximately 130 people live.
“We have heard so many times overseas that many thousands of people, probably millions of people lost their lives, and now it’s nearly close to communities right here, we need to educate, especially our young people, of what COVID-19 is,” said Rockhole resident Kevin Rogers.
“It’s very hard for them families to understand,” he said, concerned about public health messaging amid the outbreak. “I tell them, it’s really a serious matter, we should take care of ourselves and our children.”
On Tuesday, an unvaccinated woman in her 20s from the Binjari community tested positive, bringing the territory’s total to 40 cases, and local cases to 10. The Australian Defence Force has also been brought in to transfer most people who have contracted the virus, as well as close contacts, to a quarantine centre in Howard Springs.
Meanwhile, temperatures are reaching higher than 40 degrees, and some families are in two-bedroom dwellings with up to 20 people indoors together, causing transmission fears. “I just think about all the other people on the community, especially with the influx of kids and people that have come from other places that got stuck here,” local Peggy Slater told the national broadcaster.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said welfare teams have been deployed to meet food, essential goods, and mental health support needs. Authorities are now bracing for a spike in cases across both Binjari and Rockhole, with fears that vaccination uptake has been slow, particularly in the latter area.
“Please get vaccinated, once you catch the virus that will be too late. We need you to get the vaccine now,” said Gunner.