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Some Australian Aboriginal Communities Ban Visitors Over Coronavirus

FILE - Australian Aboriginals speak to members of the media at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia's Northern Territory, Oct. 26, 2019.

Some remote Aboriginal settlements in Australia are banning outsiders in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Visitors who’ve been in China, Iran, South Korea, Japan or Italy will not be allowed in for the next three months.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt believes such peoples are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus because of the prevalence of pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes and renal failure, as well as high rates of smoking, overcrowded housing and poor general hygiene.

Wyatt said some settlements want to keep outsiders away.

"What they want to do is restrict access of entry, which is showing that they are forward-thinking, they are understanding what the implications are and they are making a decision because the community are doing it with their medical staff and with their community-controlled health services,” Wyatt said.

Indigenous leaders believe any outbreak of the coronavirus would be devastating for communities that already have complex health problems. The government says Aboriginal Australians are one of the groups most at risk from the disease. So far, there are no confirmed infections among Indigenous people in Australia.

During a 2009 swine flu outbreak, Aboriginal Australians made up a fifth of all hospitalizations and 13% of deaths. They comprise about 3% of the national population, and suffer disproportionately high rates of poverty, ill health and imprisonment.

Authorities in the Northern Territory, which has a large Aboriginal community, are to release a remote area health pandemic plan Monday.

Australia has at least 65 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Two people have died.