Australia closes indigenous areas over COVID-19 fears

Australia closes indigenous areas over COVID-19 fears

SYDNEY: Australia moved to lock down remote indigenous communities Friday (Mar 20), hoping to stop COVID-19 from reaching vulnerable populations that could quickly become overwhelmed.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was "taking action to restrict travel into remote indigenous communities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus".

"States and territories will nominate prescribed areas - that is, communities - in consultation with indigenous communities," Morrison said.

"That will restrict persons from entering or leaving," with exceptions for emergency services, he added.

Health experts have warned that high rates of chronic illness, overcrowded housing and poor access to medical facilities in remote indigenous communities could exacerbate the impact of the virus.

Australia has seen 785 confirmed cases of COVID-19, overwhelmingly in urban areas.

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Source: AFP/aa