Aboriginal health worker with COVID slams anti-vaxxers, defends NT coronavirus response | #socialmedia


An Aboriginal health worker infected in the Northern Territory’s COVID-19 outbreak has slammed misinformation being spread online and defended the government’s evacuations of positive cases and close contacts in remote communities.

Luke Ellis, a 33-year-old Katherine health worker, made the comments on social media from quarantine in Darwin’s Howard Springs facility, where he was moved after several days in hospital.

Mr Ellis tested positive to the virus last Friday in Katherine, where 11 more cases were confirmed on Wednesday.

The outbreak total stands at 51 cases from Katherine, Binjari and Robinson River, with four people currently in hospital.

Mr Ellis said there were legitimate criticisms to be made about some aspects of the government’s response.

But he said valid concerns were being “drowned out” by misinformation.

He specifically addressed false claims Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel were forcing Aboriginal community residents to submit to vaccination, and comparisons of transfers to the Howard Springs facility to genocide and the Stolen Generations.

“Indigenous people on the ground have continually tried to raise awareness of things affecting our people including long-term systemic racism. To try use us as props now is disgusting.”

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Mr Ellis said the conditions in the quarantine facility were good and the transfers were necessary because of dangerous overcrowding in the communities in hard lockdown.

“My grandmother was Stolen Generation,” he wrote.

“Any comparison to [the] Stolen Generation is spitting on what those poor souls went through in those days.”

Mr Ellis, who is fully vaccinated, told the ABC he was concerned the misinformation online would hamper efforts to increase vaccination rates in the NT, where he has worked on the COVID frontline. 

“It’s not that widespread, but it’s enough to cause damage,” he said.

“It’s causing people to hesitate to get the vaccine or lose trust in their healthcare providers.

Mr Ellis said even though his COVID-19 symptoms had been mild, the experience was very difficult. 

“I don’t want to know what a moderate case feels like if this is a mild case,” he said.

“I can’t even describe how tired I was the other day — I was sick and coughing. It’s horrible.”

The communities in hard lockdown also issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon through Aboriginal health service Wurli Wurlinjang.

In it the communities said people spreading misinformation about the lockdown on social media were hurting the people they claimed to care about.

“We are in lockdown because we’re in the biggest fight of our lives,” the statement said.

“We’re trying to keep safe. We’re trying to do the right thing by the community and Katherine. We don’t need people out there creating another flood for us.”

The NT’s peak Aboriginal organisations have expressed support and gratitude for the government’s handling of the outbreak so far.

Criticism has been made of delays in ensuring people in some of the poorest parts of Katherine had access to testing once the outbreak started to spread.

The hard lockdowns have also again highlighted the decades-old housing crisis that has kept generations of Indigenous Territorians people living in poverty and struggling with health problems as a result.

This week Aboriginal organisations have repeated calls for the NT’s border reopening plans to be paused until areas of low vaccination coverage are addressed.

Health authorities ‘appeal to reason’

The government officials in charge of the NT’s COVID response also addressed misinformation about the virus at this morning’s press conference.

Acting Chief Health Officer Charles Pain said vocal opposition to the vaccine had had a “major influence” on the rollout of the COVID vaccine across the Territory, especially in remote communities.

While the vaccination rate in some communities is over 90 per cent, a handful have double-dose coverage that remains lower than 15 per cent.

Positive cases and close contacts have been evacuated to Howard Springs.(AAP: Glenn Campbell)

Dr Pain said further outbreaks were inevitable and made another appeal to people who remain unvaccinated. 

“I would appeal to the reason of those, just try and appeal to their logic,” he said.

“Just look at what’s happening. Look at the evidence and try and overcome your stubbornness.”

In a statement issued this afternoon, Amnesty International said the ADF presence would be distressing for some communities, citing the Army’s involvement in the 2007 NT intervention.

“Lockdowns and other restrictions on freedoms must also be time limited and subject to regular review and scrutiny and guidelines as to the operations of the ADF and Police around enforcement must be published and publicly available,” the statement said.

The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT said the group supported the Army’s role in providing safe transport and food.

Community leader calls for unity

On Tuesday, a senior resident of the Robinson River community, which was threatened by the outbreak at the start of last week, made an appeal to people in Katherine and other remote communities. 

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“[I’m] giving people the message to really respect and listen… and work with this team that are operating on the ground, as specialists,” he said in a video shared on NT Senator Malarndirri McCarthy’s Facebook page.

“I look at it [as]… we got bullets [COVID] fired out here and these guys didn’t hesitate [or] stay outside, they came in and worked with the community and worked through this. They worked with the bullets here.

“This is what we want people to know, that this [virus] is also coming to your doorstop.

“It’s no time for us to argue an opinion or a point, it’s just all of us coming together and surviving it together.”

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