NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #CoronaVirus News Alert No 21 #KeepOurMobSafe : What are the remote area travel restrictions? Frequently Asked 15 Questions

  1. What are the remote area travel restrictions?
  2. Why is this being done?
  3. What is happening everywhere in Australia?
  4. When to they start and when do they end?
  5. What are the areas? (see attached maps)
  6. How do the restrictions work? (see attached flow chart)
  7. How do they affect community people in community?
  8. How do they affect community people outside of the areas?
  9. How will services still being provided?
  10. Can I travel between my homeland and community?
  11. What about other essential services or activities?
  12. What about construction activities?
  13. Does this effect pastoralists and miners?
  14. Who can I talk to for more information?
  15. More information and resources

See NACCHO Corona Virus Home Page

Read all 21 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Coronas Virus Alerts HERE

What are the remote area travel restrictions?

On 20 March 2020, the National Cabinet provided in-principle agreement to the Commonwealth Minister for Health taking action under the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act 2015 to restrict travel into remote Indigenous communities to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

States and territories have nominated areas in consultation with Indigenous communities, and emergency requirements determined under the Biosecurity Act 2015 will restrict persons from entering those nominated areas from 11:59pm AEDT Thursday 26 March 2020.

This follows the decisions of a number of Indigenous communities and Governments to implement similar measures.

State and Territory Hotlines and Contact Details

Northern Territory: 1800 518 189 remote travel hotline

Western Australia: Covid19rcr@communities.wa.gov.au

Queensland: 13 QGOV (13 7468)

South Australia: 1800 253 787

Why is this being done?

These restrictions are to protect some of our most vulnerable Australians.

The restrictions have been requested by many leaders, communities and organisations.

Isolation and remoteness offer opportunities for delaying or potentially preventing an outbreak of COVID-19 in remote communities. However, high mobility of community members and a reliance on visiting and outreach activities and services increase the risk of COVID-19 occurring in these communities.

These rules are aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in remote communities and to rapidly address outbreaks.

What is happening everywhere in Australia?

Governments are focused on working together to slow the spread of COVID-19 to save lives. Every extra bit of time allows us to better prepare our health system and put measures in place to protect Australian lives.

We will be living with this virus for at least six months, so social distancing measures to slow this virus down must be sustainable for at least that long to protect Australian lives, allow Australia to keep functioning and keep Australians in jobs.

Practicing good hygiene and keeping a healthy physical distance between individuals is our most powerful weapon in fighting this virus and saving lives. Some members of the community who are disregarding social distancing measures are putting the lives of older and vulnerable Australians at risk.

To slow the spread, everyone must implement appropriate social distancing in accordance with state and territory laws. We need every Australian to do their bit to save the lives of other Australians.

When to they start and when do they end?

Restrictions to travel to remote areas to protect community members from COVID-19 came into effect at 11.59 PM AEDT Thursday 26 March 2020.

The restrictions currently end on 18 June 2020 under the Biosecurity Act. This period can be extended if considered necessary.

What are the areas? 

States and Territories have nominated areas in consultation with Indigenous communities where this was possible in the time available.

The designated remote areas include most of the Northern Territory, except the major urban centres and pastoral properties; north and east Western Australia; the north-west of South Australia and selected communities; and in Queensland Cape York Peninsula, the Torres Strait, western Gulf and other communities.

More areas may be added, including in other States.

The designated areas are indicated on the following maps:

How do the restrictions work? (see attached flow chart)

Consistent with expert health guidance, individuals will be required to undergo a minimum period of isolation (currently 14 days) before entry or re-entry into the area will be allowed.

There will be exemptions for essential activities. Exempted people still need to not have any of the signs or symptoms of COVID-19 and in the 14 days immediately before entry, not been outside Australia. All people must take all reasonable steps to minimise exposure to other people.

How do they affect community people in community?

The safest place for community people is in their community, homeland or outstation.

If people are in community, they are encouraged to stay there. If they are away in town or the city, they should return home before Friday 27 March 2020.

How do they affect community people outside of the areas?

If people want to enter community after the restrictions come into place, they will need to self-isolate for 14 days before return. Isolation is from the general public.

State and Territory Governments are making arrangements to assist isolation.

If people leave their community now, they will not be able to return for 14 days once the restrictions start at 11.59 PM AEDT on Thursday 26 March 2020.

How will services still being provided?

Once the restrictions start, only essential service personnel will be exempt so they can keep delivering essential services.

These essential services include health care, education, domestic violence prevention, child protection, policing, emergency, local government – such as rubbish collection, Services Australia, correctional, funerary and courts.

Essential services also include operating, maintaining or repairing equipment for providing electricity, gas, water or telecommunications services; other essential infrastructure; delivering food, fuel, mail or medical supplies; obtaining medical care or medical supplies; and transporting freight to or from a place in the designated area.

Remember, all people entering designated remote areas still need to not have any of the signs or symptoms of COVID-19 and in the 14 days immediately before entry, not been outside Australia. All people must take all reasonable steps to minimise exposure to other people.

Governments and community organisations are working hard to ensure essential services continue in these communities.

Can I travel between my homeland and community?

Designated areas are generally large and include groups of communities and homelands/outstations. Travel within the designated area (including between islands within that area) is permitted and will not be disrupted with these restrictions. However, it is important that everyone tries to minimise travel and practises social distancing.

Local regulations and norms still apply for travel within those areas.

What about other essential services or activities?

Under the emergency requirements have nominated decision-makers who will be empowered to permit additional people to enter the community in certain circumstances with the advice of a Human Biosecurity expert.

Remember, all people entering designated remote areas still need to not have any of the signs or symptoms of COVID-19 and in the 14 days immediately before entry, not been outside Australia. All people must take all reasonable steps to minimise exposure to other people.

What about construction activities?

Some construction of houses and roads is underway. These activities will be able to continue to completion as an essential activity.

Does this effect pastoralists and miners?

With most of the Northern Territory nominated as a designated area, all pastoral leases are excluded.

Mining, oil and gas and related operations are classed as an essential activity. However, there is an additional requirement to strictly minimise the extent to which other persons in the area are exposed to the persons carrying out those operations through agreed protocols with a relevant biosecurity officer.

Who can I talk to for more information?

Implementation of these restrictions will be the responsibility of each jurisdiction. Hotlines and contact details for your State or Territory Governments are below.

More information and resources

State and Territory Hotlines and Contact Details

Northern Territory: 1800 518 189 remote travel hotline

Western Australia: Covid19rcr@communities.wa.gov.au

Queensland: 13 QGOV (13 7468)

South Australia: 1800 253 787

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