Aboriginal community leaders in Redfern say residents are struggling to find clear information about local Covid-19 cases after health officials announced they were concerned about a growing outbreak in the area.
New South Wales Deputy Director of Health, Dr. Marianna Gale, told reporters on Wednesday that authorities were concerned about rising numbers of cases in Redfern, Glebe, Waterloo and Marrickville and urged residents in those areas to line up for vaccination.
Data from NSW Health show that 50 cases have been reported in Redfern in the week to September 8, 30 in Glebe, 74 in Waterloo and 28 in Marrickville.
However, the NSW Health website does not list any covid-19 exposure sites in Redfern. Last month, the department stopped publishing “casual contact points” to the city of Sydney, without being able to keep up with increasing daily case numbers.
Because of this, Aboriginal community leaders say they do not know where the locals are capturing Covid-19.
Ashlee Donohue, executive director of the Mudgin-Gal Aboriginal Women’s Center based in Redfern, said information on local cases and places of exposure was only shared anecdotally through the community and on social media.
“It’s gossip because nothing comes from the top to say what’s going on. I was informed about cases in the area by a tweet from a NITV representative who said the government is concerned about the increase in cases, ”Donohue said.
“If they’m so worried, why do they not do something about it?”
Aboriginal Medical Service announced on Facebook last Wednesday, September 1, that its Redfern clinic was forced to close for deep cleaning after a positive case was attended.
Redfern Aboriginal community leader Shane Phillips said there are some people in the Koori community who have tested positive for Covid-19 “and are doing really well, but we have a handful of elders who are not feeling well”.
Phillips, executive director of the Tribal Warrior Association, said two of his employees had tested positive, forcing the organization to shut down. He said they were not sure where they infected the virus.
Phillips said Koori community leaders and organizations have mobilized to cut through disinformation and ensure locals were isolated, tested and vaccinated.
“We get doctors and healthcare professionals we know, and we get them to do it [Microsoft] teams or Zoom calls with the community. And people are asking all the questions they have … and that has helped us massively, ”he said.
“But we did not have it until we found it ourselves. We are not informed correctly and do not receive good messages. And people have been infected and are waiting for it. ”
Phillips criticized the government’s mixed messages about orders to stay at home and politicize locks.
“The government’s messages are so mixed. People lose hope with that message. And on social media, you see extremes. The little people do not get the simple clinical information they need to make decisions [about isolating or getting the vaccine],” he said.
“We are mobilizing the people who have that knowledge to help us get that message across … We do not trust the government to get the information to us when it is really needed.”
Efforts are also being made to increase Covid-19 vaccinations in these areas of concern.
Deputy Head of Health Dr. Marianne Gale said on Wednesday that the local health district in Sydney had “set up special Pfizer clinics where bookings or walk-in appointments can be made for residents in these areas”.
These include new clinics at the Peter Forsyth Auditorium in Glebe, PCYC in Marrickville and the Wests League Club in Ashfield.
In Redfern, the Aboriginal Medical Services Cooperative also partnered with the Sydney Local Health District to host a vaccination hub last weekend.
Vaccination rates for residents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander are low throughout the state. Data obtained by Guardian Australia in August showed that only 6.19% of Sydney’s indigenous people were fully vaccinated.
Donohue said state health authorities should do more to provide pop-up vaccination clinics and test centers in Redfern given the increase in local cases.
“Many people here do not have cars. It is about taking into account the needs of people in the area and how you will best serve and meet those needs, ”she said.
“We are not asking for the army to come in. We are just asking for the same support as elsewhere.”
“Security measures must be introduced immediately. Otherwise, this will spread like wildfire. ”