The Queensland Government says it has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in remote communities to agree on a three-stage plan to ease restrictions in Federal Government-designated biosecurity areas.
On Sunday Deputy Premier Steven Miles launched theRoadmap to easing access restrictions for Queensland's remote communities, enabling designated communities to transition from the current federal emergency biosecurity restrictions to state-based arrangements under Chief Health Officer public health directions.
In North West Queensland this affects Doomadgee, Burke and Mornington Shires which have been pandemic declared areas since March.
Deputy Premier Miles said the Roadmap would enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community residents more freedom to go fishing, grocery shopping and attend appointments while maintaining necessary restrictions to keep communities safe.
"Stage 1 of the Roadmap is effective immediately and enables people, to enter a designated community to self-quarantine within that community under approved arrangements, removing a requirement to quarantine for 14 days before entering," Mr Miles said.
Queensland's Chief Health Officer will issue public health directions to manage ongoing risk, account for different health risk profiles throughout the state, and reflect the views and needs of Queensland's First Nations communities.
Deputy Premier Miles said the timeframe and restrictions would likely vary between communities.
"Some areas could move through the stages at different times, depending on the advice of the Local Disaster Management Group, assessment of the public health risk, appropriate enforceability and community consultation," he said.
"We are working with mayors through the Local Disaster Management Groups on local priorities and requirements for access restrictions, to take into account the different situations in each area and community, including to ensure there is local capacity and capability to address public health risks."
There has been no cases of COVID-19 in remote First Nations communities.
The Federal Government's emergency provisions of the Biosecurity Act will remain in place until September 17 but this will not impact on the transition of Queensland's remote and discrete communities from the National Biosecurity Declaration.
The Queensland Government will ask the Federal Government to remove Queensland's remote communities from the Biosecurity Determination from June 12 to enable Stage Two state-based arrangements to commence.
Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young will write to the Federal government this week with Queensland's plans to assume responsibility for easing of rules and regulations aimed at keeping COVID-19 out of these communities.
"We want to allow people who've been outside of these communities during the lockdown to start returning but we have to be sensible and that means quarantining in their homes community for two weeks once they're home."
Currently the majority of the state's Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities are locked down under the Federal Government's tight Bio-security act, aimed at protecting any vulnerable people from COVID-19.
"We know our First Nations people are at real risk if COVID-19 made its way into their communities, protecting them was a priority and I want to thank them for the co-operation we've experienced through this arduous period," Dr Young said.
Queensland's Chief Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Officer, Haylene Grogan said it was time for some people to come home and reunite albeit after home quarantining.
The current national Commonwealth Biosecurity Act gives police powers to enforce movement restrictions and issue penalties to anyone deliberately breaching these laws and putting these communities in danger.
Pending the transition from the Federal Act, a Chief Health Officer based order is expected to take effect from June 5 to 12.
Stage 1 enables people entering or re-entering a designated community to self-quarantine within that community, where safe to do so. Under Stage 1, quarantine exemptions will remain in place for essential workers, those travelling through communities without stopping and those granted an exemption by the Chair of the Local Disaster Management Group in the designated area.
Under Stage 2, the Chief Health Officer will publish a direction that enables communities to become part of 'safe travel zones' residents can easily travel within based on public health advice. A 'Safe Travel Zone' can be made up of a single community, or several local government areas, depending on the risk profile of the area. Stage 2 can commence following the Commonwealth removal of communities from the Biosecurity Determination.
Stage 3 of the Roadmap removes entry and quarantine restrictions, with remote and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities - plus the Burke and Cook shires - subject to the same provisions as other areas of Queensland under the Roadmap to Easing Restrictions.
Bob Katter says the changes don't go far enough.
"The First Australian communities are still locked-up when every other Queenslander can now travel the length and breadth of the state," he said.
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