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30 March, 2020

Cape York closed down

Strict travel restrictions applying to Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have now come into effect.

By Phil Brandel

Strict travel restrictions applying to Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from the COVID-19 outbreak have now come into effect.

The Federal Government has issued new requirements for designated communities under the Commonwealth’s Biosecurity Act that effectively locked down Indigenous communities across Cape York.

Anyone who wants to enter a designated community must self-isolate for 14 days before being allowed to enter.

Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnerships Jackie Trad said the move was critical to protect some of Queensland’s most vulnerable communities and backed actions already undertaken by local community leadership.

“I have been convening regular teleconferences with the mayors of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, to support local decision-making on protecting their communities,” Ms Trad said.

“Many communities had already moved to restrict travel access, but the direction under the Biosecurity Act now provides a consistent approach across all communities.

The process is being managed by the State under the laws of the Commonwealth and The State is now controlling the entry process to Cook Shire and other designated areas on Cape York.

If you are planning on entering the Cape and you are not conducting an essential activity you will need to demonstrate that you:

- Have been isolated from the general public for 14 days;
- Have not shown signs and symptoms of Coronavirus;
- You not been exposed to the virus or someone with symptoms of Coronavirus.

Queensland Police are responsible for assessing eligibility and entry based on the criteria contained in the new legislation. Police will be stationed at the Mt Carbine Control Point on the Mulligan Highway, airports and seaports.

Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council (NPARC), also released a statement  “On behalf of the NPARC Local Disaster Management Group (LDMG), the NPARC advises that until further notice, due to Coronavirus, travel to the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) is limited to those people involved in the provision of essential services in the community.”

“These restrictions apply to both visitors and residents of NPA. These restrictions have been applied in the interest of the ongoing health and safety of our residents.”

The NPARC area extends from the tip of Cape York down to the Jardine Ferry inline with Nolan’s Brook on the Telegraph Track.

The Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council on western Cape York also implemented a self-imposed ban on travel in and out of the community to all but health and critical infrastructure workers.

The shire's chief executive, Naseem Chetty, said it was a locally made decision based on advice from its Local Disaster Management Group and independent of any government directive.

"Community members were told that if they weren't back by [the deadline], they would not be allowed back in," Ms Chetty said

Travel restrictions apply to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities within the following local government areas:

Hope Vale
Lockhart River
Northern Peninsula Area
Torres Strait Islands
Wujal Wujal
Palm Island

For further information, call the Queensland Government Helpline on 13 74 68.


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