Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

The close-knit Binjari community, near Katherine, is mourning the death of a 78-year-old woman who has died of complications related to COVID-19.

Binjari elders, who authorities said had underlying health conditions and were not vaccinated, died at the hospital last night after contracting the virus two weeks ago when cases spread in the Katherine region.

The woman is the first person to die of coronavirus in the Northern Territory.

Tough lockdown restrictions in the community of about 200 people were eased a bit yesterday, but standard lockdown rules remain in place.

NT’s Prime Minister Michael Gunner today described as a great grief for the woman’s family and community.

NT Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, whose own family members were also affected by the outbreak, which currently stands at 60 cases, said the woman’s death was “the most horrific news”.

“My heart goes out to all these families,” she said.

She said the woman’s death showed that coronavirus was a “very real” threat and called on all territories to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

The Royal Darwin Hospital building seen in the distance, on a sunny day, with a red flower bush in the foreground.
Health staff at Royal Darwin Hospital did “everything they could” to save the Binjari woman, Mr Gunner said.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

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She said the authorities should help families in Binjari carry out deplorable business in an appropriate and safe manner.

“The first thing for me is to reach out to the families in Binjari and express my sincere sympathy and find out what they want,” she said.

Lisa Mumbin, president of the local Wurli health service and friend of the Aboriginal woman who died, said she was devastated by the loss of an elderly person in the community.

“She was a very respected older lady and a wonderful lady,” she said

“It’s very destructive and it’s hurting society at the moment.”

Mumbin thanked the hospital staff for their efforts.

She said it would be extremely difficult to carry out deplorable business burial rituals under the COVID lockout rules, which prevent people from gathering in Binjari.

Lisa Mumbin, president of the Jawoyn Association, talks about the problems faced during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Ms Mumbin, a respected Aboriginal leader, said the woman who died was highly loved.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

In a post on Twitter, the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT said the death of the Binjari woman was “very sad news”.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Binjari mob,” the post said.

Labor MLA Chansey Paech said “our hearts are so heavy on this sad day – so, so heavy”.

“Please do not wait until this disease comes to your community to be vaccinated,” he said in a Twitter post.

Sir. Gunner said the clinical team that had treated the woman at RDH was “devastated.”

The health staff had made sure that the woman could say goodbye to her family via FaceTime at the hospital.

“We are all mourning with them today. All territories are mourning with them today,” Mr Gunner said.

The woman’s infection was linked to the Katherine outbreak, which authorities say was triggered by a Cairns woman who had visited Melbourne and lied on her border entry form when she entered the territory.

NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said police would launch a criminal investigation into “the causal link and links that may have been to this lady’s passing”.

Authorities reassure remote residents about vaccine supply

The first dose of vaccination in Binjari is now at 100 percent.

But before the coronavirus entered the community, health authorities say the vaccination rate in Binjari was low.

Acting Chief Health Officer Charles Pain said he understood people would feel “anxious about being vaccinated” after the woman’s death.

“All our remote clinics have the vaccine available, [so] you do not have to worry about availability, “he said.

“You can just go to any clinic and there will be people there to vaccinate you.

“Be sure that if you are nervous about being vaccinated now, you will have the opportunity to be vaccinated.”

The vaccination rate has risen throughout the NT since the onset of the outbreak, with Katherine crossing the 80 percent threshold this week.

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