Australia’s worsening outbreak raises concerns about Aboriginal communities

Written by Yan Zhuang, Isabella Kwai and Christopher F. Schuetze

In form of delta version Of coronavirus As New South Wales spreads beyond Sydney to the surrounding state, there is growing concern about the potential impact on vulnerable, unvaccinated Australian Aboriginals.

The Australian government made Aboriginal people a priority group for vaccination because of the lack of health care services in the remote areas where many of them lived. But as of Sunday, only 15% of Indigenous Australians over the age of 16 had been fully vaccinated, compared to 26% of people across Australia.

Low rates among Aboriginal Australians are particularly concerning in the western part of New South Wales, which went into lockdown on Saturday. The majority of the region’s 98 coronavirus cases are among indigenous people, Scott MacLachlan, chief executive of the region’s health services, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Four cases have been found in the city of Walgate, where about half of the 6,000 residents are tribal. There is a high prevalence of chronic health conditions among that population, and officials and Indigenous leaders fear a widespread outbreak could overwhelm local health care.

The Dhariwa Elders Group, a union of Aboriginal elders in Walgate, said in a statement: “Many of our elders and others in Walgate experience health and social issues that leave them vulnerable to contracting it. COVID-19. The impact on our community could be devastating.”

Indigenous Australian minister Ken Wyatt said some people were hesitant to get vaccinated because of news reports about the rare possibility of blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week defended the government’s slow vaccination efforts, which have been widely criticized.

“Australia is a huge country, and our indigenous population lives in some remote parts of our country,” he said on Friday. “It was always going to be the most challenging element of all the vaccine rollouts.”

Dr. Kalinda Griffiths, a Yavaru woman and public health researcher at the University of New South Wales, said the government was not publishing information about how many Indigenous Australians had been vaccinated, thereby identifying vulnerable spots for communities. It was difficult to do until the outbreak broke out. .

“We are on the backfoot now,” she said.

Experts have called for the release of area- and age-specific vaccination data for indigenous communities.

Strict virus restrictions were imposed in many parts of Australia on Monday. In New South Wales, it was the worst day pandemic Until now. The state reported seven coronavirus-related deaths and 478 new cases. Hundreds of soldiers patrol the streets of Sydney, which is in its eighth week of lockdown, to help enforce stay-at-home orders.

The state of Victoria, which includes Melbourne, tightened its lockdown restrictions, imposed a 9 pm to 5 am curfew and closed outdoor playgrounds. The Northern Territory, whose capital is Darwin, went into a 72-hour lockdown after an asymptomatic infection was discovered.

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