Travel restrictions across remote communities in the Northern Territory will be lifted from Friday, 5 June 2020.
The Australian Government has taken this action in response to a request by the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Hon Michael Gunner MLA, to withdraw from the Emergency Determination under the Biosecurity Act 2015.
This decision has the full support of the Northern Territory Land Councils, the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Norther Territory (AMSANT) and the North Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA).
The decision to lift the Emergency Determination in the Northern Territory is based on the expert medical advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and is in line with the framework for Easing Remote Restrictions announced by the Prime Minister on 15 May 2020.
In March, the Government made the decision to restrict travel into remote communities under the Biosecurity Act 2015, to minimise the risk of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic following calls from many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and remote communities.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are at greater risk from COVID-19. This is due to higher rates of other health issues in remote communities, access to health care can be more difficult and people in these communities are very mobile and travel often.
Minister for Heath, Hon Greg Hunt MP said, “Ensuring the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander is a Government priority and remains a focus of the COVID-19 National Emergency Response Plan and the Management Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Populations.
“The Government will continue to monitor the situation in the Northern Territory in partnership with the Northern Territory Government, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and AMSANT”, Minister Hunt said.
Senator for the Northern Territory, Dr Sam McMahon, has welcomed the lifting of regional travel restrictions in the Northern Territory.
“Residents in remote communities have been very patient and compliant with the restrictions but they’re becoming increasingly frustrated that despite no community transmission and no active cases they are still unable to move about.
“These residents are looking forward to being able to enjoy the rights and freedoms that Territorians in towns and cities do, such as access to shops and services”, Dr McMahon said.
In the event of an outbreak of COVID-19, the Territory and Federal Governments will move rapidly and take all necessary steps to continue to safeguard the health of remote communities.
Requests from other jurisdictions to exit the Determination will be considered in accordance with the Remote Framework. For further information on the Remote Framework, visit https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/remote-framework-conditions-for-easing-remote-area-travel-restrictions.