• Calls for mob with chronic disease to stay on country (AAP)Source: AAP
Concerns about what Coronavirus, or COVID-19, means for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with chronic health conditions continue to mount.
Rachael Hocking

18 Mar 2020 - 1:53 AM  UPDATED 18 Mar 2020 - 1:53 AM

The Indigenous-owned not-for-profit health service, The Purple House, based in Alice Springs, on Tuesday emphasised the need to keep patients living with kidney disease on Country, due to the high risk of them contracting the coronavirus, COVID-19.  

Travel to and from remote communities in the Northern Territory has already been heavily scaled back, with existing permits for non-essential travel to be suspended and no new permits granted until further notice.

"We are working hard to make sure that all our patients, families and community members understand what this virus is and how they can keep safe," said Purple House chief executive Sarah Brown. 

"For us, helping people to remain on Country is really important."

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a higher risk of serious infection from COVID-19 because they are more likely to live with chronic illness than the non-Indigenous population said Ms Brown. 

Ms Brown also said while Purple House had already slowed down travel to and from communities, the focus remained on keeping communities informed and able to access healthcare. 

"We are all working together to look after each other and reminding each other about washing hands, not hugging and avoiding big groups of people," she said. 

"The situation is changing all the time, so we are keeping up to date and will change plans as needed." 

Media slammed by NT Senator 

NT Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy reiterated concerns for mob living remotely during a press conference on Tuesday, and criticised media reporting of COVID-19 for stirring excessive fear in communities. 

"We have significant concerns for our remote regions of the Northern Territory, as we do for all people in the Northern Territory, but we recognise the vulnerability for First Nations people in particular," she said.

"But can I also say to media: when I read the different headlines across the country this morning about 150 thousand to die from this virus, I mean I was horrified to see that.

"Because what it does is create greater fear and panic to people who are already afraid in this country."

Meanwhile Darwin-based Traditional Owner organisation Larrakia Nation announced free transport back to Country for people who have travelled to town centres like Katherine and Darwin, saying the initiative was to help protect communities against COVID-19.

As of Tuesday afternoon, only people who have recently travelled from overseas or have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case and experienced symptoms within 14 days are advised to be tested.
If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor, don’t visit, or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.