Traditional owners living within the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park have asked for a delay in reopening Ayers Rock Airport to protect its more vulnerable indigenous citizens from coronavirus.
Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation (MCAC) chair Gloria Moneymoon said, “The government should close the airport and the tourists should go somewhere else. It’s still too dangerous for us to accept visitors from high-risk places.”
On Friday, the Northern Territory opened its borders up to interstate travel – but residents from Victoria, Greater Sydney and now the Eurobodalla Shire in NSW are excluded.
Citizens returning from those areas face 14 days in hotel quarantine charged at $2,500.
The move follows apparent ‘clusters’ of coronavirus cases in NSW and much of Melbourne still in its second lockdown.
The airport – formally known as Ayers Rock but also called Connellan – is just 16 kilometres from Central Australia’s iconic natural monument.
However, concerns have been raised that those needing to isolate will be forced to travel 460 kilometres from the airport to Alice Springs, home to the state’s hotel quarantine facility.
The MCAC has written to both the Northern Territory’s Chief Minister Michael Gunner and the federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, to request the delay from the current open date of 1 August.
The organisation has also asked the board in charge of the National Park to shut off the area if the airport, and tourists, don’t stay away.
MCAC director Craig Woods said, “Indigenous people suffer more from chronic disease than other citizens. Please postpone your holiday, stay home and keep the Mutitjulu community safe.”
Currently, those entering the Northern Territory from non ‘hotspot’ areas don’t need to isolate but must fill in an online border entry form 72 hours before travel.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner previously defended his decision to add greater Sydney to the banned list shortly before the state reopening.
“This situation in Sydney has the potential to get worse before it gets better, and we need to assume that it will get worse,” Chief Minister Gunner said. “To open our borders to Sydney right now, when we don’t know the full extent of this cluster, would be a roll of the dice.
“We will review the Sydney hotspot declarations in two weeks — one full replication cycle of the virus — to see if they need to be extended or amended. I don’t anticipate this declaration being in place for as long as Victoria’s, but I will not make any promises about a date.”