• Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for calm after the first person-to-person transmission of the virus in Australia occurred on Monday in New South Wales. (AAP)Source: AAP
As fears grow over a COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in Australia, concerns mount for Indigenous communities.
Brooke Fryer

4 Mar 2020 - 2:32 AM  UPDATED 4 Mar 2020 - 2:32 AM

The Federal Government said on Tuesday that it has been engaging with Indigenous communities to prepare for a potential COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for calm after the first person-to-person transmission of the virus in Australia occurred on Monday in New South Wales.

A 53-year-old health worker and a 41-year-old woman are considered to be the first to contract COVID-19 without leaving the country.

The woman is the sister of a man who was diagnosed with the disease after returning home from Iran.

The virus broke out in the Middle East country last week and has since killed 66 people and sickened 1,501 people.

Currently, there are no known cases of the virus among Indigenous communities but Mr Morrison said remote communities would be especially at risk if an outbreak was to occur.

“We’ve been engaging with Indigenous leaders because in remote Indigenous communities, if the virus was to get to those places, there’s a real vulnerability there and so we’ve been reaching out to those communities to work through how preparedness can be put in place,” he said to media on Tuesday at Canberra's Parliament House.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has also shown concern for Australians in regional areas.

“And we have to be mindful of especially remote Indigenous communities and communities where there is no medical support,” he said on Monday.

“I think this is a group where we have to start doing our risk assessment of how we deal with these issues.”

Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) have been in talks with one another about possible approaches to an outbreak and ways in which to protect Indigenous communities.

An official statement is expected to be released next week.

President of AIDA Dr Kristopher Rallah-Baker told NITV News that communities should be taking health advice from official bodies.

"[We need to] Pay attention to advise from the state and commonwealth health departments, and really take on board official advice rather than some of the stuff that's going around on social media," he said. 

"There's a lot of information coming out around this issue both nationally and internationally, and our respective secretariats are working through that information to work out the best pathway forward our communities." 

COVID-19 originated from China’s Wuhan in December and has since sickened around 90,000 people and spread to 33 countries, including Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Italy.

Through preliminary research, the virus seems to be moderately infectious and is most likely transmitted through sneezes, coughs and already contaminated surfaces, reported The New York Times.

On Sunday Australia’s first death from the coronavirus was confirmed. The 78-year-old man showed signs of the disease only 10 days before his death.

The man was an evacuee from the Diamond Princess cruise ship which was held in isolation for two weeks in Japan after an outbreak of the virus onboard, seeing hundreds of people testing positive.

He was transferred to a WA hospital after being in quarantine at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory where the ship's evacuees were sent.