A Northern Territory council has called for an urgent lockdown of remote Indigenous communities to save lives amid the “out-of-control” spread of COVID-19.
The Central Land Council says the Northern Territory and federal governments must collaborate on enforcing a lockdown until the situation is under control.
“We need a circuit breaker to slow down the out-of-control spread of the virus in our communities,” chief executive Les Turner said in a statement.
“We all use the same hospitals and will be very much in it together when they become overwhelmed.”
Mr Turner said the lockdown should include police and Australian Defence Force personnel staffing roadblocks to restrict movement between communities and into regional centres.
A surge workforce was also needed to help test, trace, quarantine and vaccinate residents.
The calls came after the NT reported 517 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday as the virus continues to spread through Indigenous communities.
NT Health said there were 31 infections in Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island in Arnhem Land with the outbreak there growing to 118 cases.
Eleven new infections were detected at Yuendumu, northwest of Alice Springs and seven were recorded at Amoonguna, also in central Australia.
Fifteen cases were found in locked-down Milikapiti, bringing the total number of cases in the isolated Tiwi Island community to 21.
Another 26 cases were found in Mission Australia’s Darwin homeless shelter, adding to the dozens detected earlier in the week.
A cluster in the Alice Springs town camps grew by 17 and an outbreak in the local prison surged with 23 new infections diagnosed.
Cases were also reported in Gunyangara, Nhulunbuy, Yirrkala, Wurrumiyanga, Ntaria, Santa Teresa and more than a dozen other Aboriginal communities across the NT.
Mr Turner said a number of super spreader events had contributed to the explosion of positive cases, but Aboriginal people were taking action.
“Many of our constituents are now delaying funerals to slow the spread of COVID,” he said.
“Our people and their organisations are doing their bit. They now need both governments to stop burying their heads in the sand, face facts and back them.”