Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation is urging people to "get serious" about COVID-19 following a spike in cases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities within the state over the weekend.
There have now been 45 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indigenous communities in Victoria, up from the 37 cases recorded last week.
Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO CEO) Jill Gallagher said the spike in cases in Melton, Brimbank and Hume local government areas are worrying.
“Almost two-thirds of cases are female with more than half of cases in the 15-44 age group which shows that young people are not immune from this virus," she said.
“These numbers are extremely serious, particularly as we are starting to see infections in rural areas, and in spikes in some LGAs.”
Of the 45 cases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, 21 have fully recovered while 24 remain active.
Of these 20 are in isolation and have not been admitted to hospital.
Ms Gallagher said communities have done a great job in keeping numbers low up to this point.
“Thankfully, we are are yet to see the unthinkable, like a fatality, or a large amount of cases in hospital ICUs," she said.
"Or worse, an outbreak in one of our aged care facilities, or early year centres but this is around the corner if we don’t remain vigilant and take every precaution to stay on top of this virus.
“If you are showing even the mildest of symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, coughing, fever, loss of smell or taste, or shortness of breath, you must get tested.
“And our mob cannot go to work if they are sick.
“It’s critical people go home immediately after they have been tested and isolate until they get their test results.”
While Ms Gallagher said the Federal Government funding commitment of $123 million to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sector to boost its response to COVID-19 was welcome, she remained concerned that more funding would be required and needed to be directed to community organisations, particularly health services.
“ACCOs are the organisations most responsible for frontline Aboriginal health protections, however less than 40 per cent of that funding is available to them,” she said.
“Within the $123 million funding package, $25 million is specifically directed to remote communities, and $50 million is specifically for Indigenous businesses, to which ACCOs only have partial access.
“The flow down investment is minimal, leaving only $48 million for the ACCO sector across the country, funding that is also available to remote areas.
“We know that nearly 80 per cent of the country’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population live in urban areas.
“These urban areas come with their own unique challenges and costs, including overcrowded dwellings, underlying health conditions and less ability to isolate from the broader population.”