Aboriginal Communities and COVID-19

Everybody is at risk of getting coronavirus (COVID-19). For most people, they will only develop mild illness and recover easily, but others may develop severe sickness that affects the lungs.

People with weaker immune systems are more likely to get seriously ill. This puts Aboriginal Elders and people with chronic health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease) at risk.

SA Health is working closely with key stakeholders across the state to ensure that Aboriginal Communities have access to current, culturally appropriate and localised information.

This page contains information to help you protect yourself, your family and community.

Why is COVID-19 dangerous for Aboriginal Communities?

Aboriginal people are particularly vulnerable when it comes to COVID-19 because:

  • Living arrangements and social connectedness (particularly where many people are living or gathering in one household), makes transmission more likely.
  • Aboriginal people have higher levels of pre-existing health conditions (particularly diabetes and respiratory conditions). People with these health conditions, especially those aged over 50, are at risk of more severe COVID-19 outcomes.
  • Increased remoteness makes access to health care more challenging.
  • COVID-19 can spread quickly—it will only take one person coming into the community with the sickness to put the whole community at risk.

Signs and symptoms of COVID-19

As with other respiratory illnesses, some people infected with COVID-19 may experience mild symptoms and will recover easily, and others may become very ill and need urgent medical care.

COVID-19 can cause mild symptoms including fever or chills, sore throat, coughing, running nose, fatigue and loss of taste or smell (PDF 597KB).

For some people, it can be more severe and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties and can even be fatal. Call 000 if you need urgent medical help.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about COVID-19.

What should I do if I’m feeling unwell?

  • If you are severely unwell, such as having difficulty breathing, call 000 (Triple Zero).
  • Use the healthdirect Symptom Checker to find out if you need to seek medical help.
  • Visit the Testing for COVID-19 page for information on:
    • Who can get tested
    • How and where to get tested
    • What to do after your test
    • What to do if you have a positive or negative test result
    • What to do if you are feeling worried but well.
  • Visit the COVID-19 Clinics and Testing Centres page to find your closest dedicated COVID-19 clinic across metropolitan and regional South Australia.
  • If you are worried, keep a distance of 1.5 metres away from sick people when out and about in public spaces.
  • This also means not holding any unnecessary meetings or events, working from home where possible, not shaking hands, hugging, kissing and touching people unnecessarily or sharing food, smokes and drinks.
  • Call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 if you want more information on COVID-19. This line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you think you have COVID-19, always call your doctor or hospital before you visit.

How can I protect my community and Elders?

You can protect yourself and others by:

How can I stop the spread and stay strong?

Aboriginal people are at risk of getting really sick from COVID-19. Even if you are feeling well it is important to take steps to prevent the virus from spreading.

Good hygiene and social distancing (also called physical distancing) (PDF 332KB), are the best defences against COVID-19.

It is important that you talk to your doctor, health clinic, or pharmacy about getting a flu shot (PDF 253KB) as soon as it is available.

Read more about how to protect yourself and others (PDF 332KB). 

Can I leave my house?

The rules around leaving your house are relaxing. You can now leave your house for more activities and do the things you enjoy in a safe and measured way.

Plans for easing restrictions and recovery from COVID-19 in South Australia and other frequently asked questions can be found on the Government of South Australia COVID-19 website.

These rules do not apply to people who live in remote Aboriginal communities. If you live in a remote community you need to follow travel restrictions to keep you and your community safe.

Keeping in touch with your community

Staying connected with family, friends and your community is important (PDF 312KB). Some ways you can do this are: 

  • calling people for a yarn on the phone
  • talking about the community and checking if they are OK
  • talking about the virus and how to stop the spread
  • connecting to family and friends on social media.

How can I keep my spirit strong?

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost every area of our lives - our health, job security, family life, and ability to engage in cultural practices. It is normal to feel things like anxiety, distress, and fear. Some people may feel grief and loss for how things used to be, particularly as we are unsure when things will go back to ‘normal’.

While COVID-19 has changed ways of being and doing, it has not changed ways of knowing. It is important that through this time, communities continue to practice culture and traditions where possible. Practising culture helps people and communities to stay strong. While physically distancing, it is more important than ever to remain socially, emotionally and culturally connected.

For tips on staying positive (PDF 474KB), information about who to talk to when feeling alone (PDF 466KB) and looking after yourself your health (PDF 192KB), click on the fact sheet links or visit openyourworld.sa.gov.au to find tools to improve wellbeing and stay healthy, active and connected.

Funerals and Sorry Business during COVID-19

Normally we have gatherings when someone has passed away but, during the coronavirus pandemic, larger groups of people mean greater risk of spreading the virus, especially for the more vulnerable such as Elders and people who already have health problems.

Restrictions are in place for the number of people allowed to gather for funerals and sorry business. These restrictions will change over time. For current information, visit www.covid-19.sa.gov.au/restrictions-and-responsibilities.

Travel restrictions may also be in place across Australia so people may not be able to travel to attend gatherings.

View the sorry business and funerals fact sheet (PDF 251KB) for more information.

Visit the Government of South Australia website to understand the current restrictions in South Australia.

Restrictions on movement into remote Aboriginal communities

Movement into some remote and regional areas across South Australia has been temporarily restricted to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Under the Biosecurity Act 2015, some Aboriginal communities, including Aboriginal communities in South Australia, have opted to have movement into the communities temporarily restricted. Anyone wanting to enter or re-enter the community is required to have permission and quarantine for fourteen days before entry.

Further information on these travel restrictions is available on the Government of South Australia website.

Designated communities

See the fact sheets explaining what is a designated area community (PDF 592KB) and the rules for designated communities (PDF 358KB).

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