Coronavirus Government Global Briefing: May 28

By Chris Woods

Thursday May 28, 2020

Welcome to Coronavirus Government Global Briefing, Mandarin Premium’s morning update on everything in local and global government responses to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The impact of COVID-19 policies, policing and prisons on First Nations communities

A new report from Aboriginal-led justice coalition Change the Record, ‘Critical Condition: The impact of Covid-19 policies, policing and prisons on First Nations communities’, unpacks how Indigenous groups have been disproportionately impacted by policies concerning prisons and youth detention centres, family and domestic violence, and the policing of public health regulations.

As ANU Professor of Criminology Lorana Bartels and UTS Professor of Law Thalia Anthony note in their explanation of the research at The Conversation, major findings include:

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  • First Nations people have experienced an increased use of lockdowns in prisons and have had reduced access to lawyers and visits from families;
  • Some prisons have required people in prison “to pay exorbitant fees to call loved ones”;
  • Victim-survivors of family violence have been unable to access police protection and support services due to staffing shortages (a particular concern because there is evidence such violence is increasing);
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services have reported “substantial challenges” in working with their clients and are concerned about a spike in legal demand as soon as restrictions are lifted;
  • The closures of residential drug and alcohol facilities have led to people being sent home, leaving some people without alternative and safe living arrangements;
  • First Nations parents have had access to their children in out-of-home care restricted, causing “distress and anxiety in a time of heightened stress for everyone”; and
  • There has been over-policing of First Nations people for offences such as public nuisance, public drunkenness, fare evasion and failure to comply with move on orders. There have been high numbers of fines issued in small towns with high First Nations populations and low levels of COVID-19.

Compiled by Change the Record executive officer Sophie Trevitt, the report reflects policy decisions, news reports, and case studies in part courtesy of the organisation’s steering committee, which includes peak bodies such as National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS), National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (NACCHO), and National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum (NFVPLS).

Case studies range from a man currently subject to prison lockdown rules to a woman facing the potential removal of her children because she now lacks secure accomodation.

What are peak bodies calling for?

The report essentially explores how COVID-19 has exacerbated existing trauma and inequalities; for example, how the closure of out-of-home care services impacted the disproportionately-high number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children taken away from parents and families.

As such, recommendations for state, territory and federal governments include both long-term and COVID-specific demands:

  1. Release Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners who are low-risk, have chronic health conditions, are on remand, are elderly, children or are for whatever reason at increased risk of COVID-19.
  2. Protect the human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in prison by ensuring access to oversight and monitoring agencies, family, legal services, mental health care, education and programs.
  3. Raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14 years old and urgently release children and young people from youth detention centres during COVID-19.
  4. Enact a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child-protection notification and referral scheme to reduce family violence driven child removal through proactive, culturally safe and holistic legal assistance.
  5. Connect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who experience family violence and who are engaged with the child-protection system, with culturally appropriate services through their nearest Family Violence Prevention Legal Service.
  6. Increase support and access to safe accommodation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families fleeing family violence to stop further removals of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
  7. Implement immediate short-term changes in legislation, where applicable, in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care to ensure parents don’t lose their children to permanent care during COVID-19.
  8. Resist punitive policy responses to COVID-19 and the over-policing of already targeted communities, and require transparency and oversight in policing.
  9. Ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including those with disability, are given equal access to high quality and culturally-appropriate health care during COVID-19.
  10. Rebuild our justice system after COVID-19 to focus on investing in community, not prisons, to increase community safety and prevent black deaths in custody.

Finally, the report was welcomed by federal Greens senator Rachel Siewert as a reminder that national recovery efforts need to incorporate First Nations people.

On its launch, Siewert called for the federal government to include members with expertise in First Nation issues on the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission.

South Korea records new cluster in their biggest spike in over a month

South Korea reported 40 new cases on Wednesday morning — their largest single-day spike in over 49 days — following the discovery of a cluster at e-commerce company Coupang Logistics Center in Bucheon-si, Gyeonggi Province.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) yesterday announced that 27 additional workers at the logistics centre had tested positive, bringing the total to 36.

Source: KCDC.

As Al Jazeera reports, the Coupang has since shut the centre, which has begun the strongest recommended disinfection measures, and about 3,600 workers have been tested. The first case related to the centre was diagnosed on Saturday and, according to AJ, is suspected to be connected with the Seoul nightclub outbreak earlier this month.

For some broader context, the cluster comes as more than two million students returned to class under a phased opening of schools.

How South Korea responded amidst schools reopening and a fear of a second wave

In its second daily update, KDCD announced that it has requested workers who worked at Coupang Logistics Center during the period starting on 12 May “to get tested (wearing mask mandatory) and self-quarantine.”

“Also, if there is student or a school staff among family, they should stop going to school. If there is a healthcare worker or social worker among family, they should limit work.”

Separately, vice health minister Kim Kang-lip announced an investigation into the outbreak and said authorities suspect the logistics centre did not comply with “basic” quarantine principles; a spokeswoman for Coupang has since said the centre was subject to daily disinfection and employees wore masks and gloves, and had temperatures checked.

In the face of a potential second wave, mayor of Bucheon Jang Deog-cheon has announced that the city will return to strict physical distancing. As local outlet Yonhap reports, this includes keeping local schools closed and running online classes for all grades except for high school seniors.

As schools begin to reopen across the country — high school grade 2 (Grade 11), middle school grade 3 (Grade 9), elementary school grades 1-2, and kindergarten students — KCDC requested students and school staff follow the following preventative measures:

“If a confirmed case is found in a school, all students, teachers, and staff of the school will be instructed to put on an MFDS-approved face-mask and return home. Local municipal government will conduct epidemiological investigation, disinfection, restriction of use of the affected facility, and other necessary infection control measures.”

Other KCDC updates include:

  • In light of the recent rise in local transmissions related to clubs, bars, karaoke rooms, and after-school private academies, KCDC urged people to refrain from social gathering or visiting any enclosed/confined/crowded spaces that are frequented by many people.
  • In business establishments, all persons should wear a facemask when using indoor break rooms, changing rooms, or other publicly shared indoor areas. Such areas should not be used by multiple people at the same time.
  • Anyone who has come in close contact with a large number of unspecified persons in an enclosed/confined space such as clubs or bars need to be tested at a screening clinic through public health centre or 1339 call centre.

On the home front: NT, WA name recovery advisory groups

Yesterday, the Northern Territory announced the final membership of ‘Team Territory’, a group tasked with advising the Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission — which we found out earlier this week will be co-chaired by Dow Chemical Chairman Andrew Liveris and former chief minister Paul Henderson.

The group has been tasked with:

  • Providing specialist advice to the Reconstruction Commission;
  • Provideing insights and guidance on the implementation of the rebound strategy;
  • Ensuring the recommendations of the Reconstruction Commission are achievable and deliver real benefits to Territorians; and
  • Providing advice on any necessary changes to recommendations as circumstances change, to ensure the commission’s report remains a living and working document.

Members include:

  • Clare Martin (co-chair)
  • Dick Guit (co-chair)
  • Steve Rowe – CEO, SRA Information Technology
  • Wendy Morton – former executive director, NT Council of Social Services
  • Donna Ah Chee – chair, Tripartite Forum
  • Angela Tomazos – managing partner, NAB Business, Agri & Specialised Banking Northern Territory
  • Michael Hannon (Snr) – chair, Hannon Group
  • Adrian Brown – managing director, Bilba Group
  • Simon Smith – owner, Girraween Nursery and The Plantsmith
  • Erina Early – secretary, United Workers Union
  • Mick Burns – owner, Porosus P/L
  • Sam Strohmayr – chief operating officer, Glencore Zinc Assets Australia
  • Lyndon Frearson –managing director, Ekistica
  • Trisha Morton-Thomas – filmmaker
  • Land Council CEOs:
    • Jo Martin-Jard – Central Land Council
    • Marion Scrymgour – Northern Land Council
    • Mark Hewitt – Anindilyakwa Land Council
    • Andrew Tipungwuti – Tiwi Land Council

Separately, the Western Australian government established a State Recovery Advisory Group to provide advice on the impacts of COVID-19 and help to guide the development of the State Recovery Plan to both the government and the state recovery controller, Sharyn O’Neill.

Members include:

  • Chris Rodwell, CCI WA
  • Paul Everingham, CME
  • Claire Wilkinson, APPEA
  • Nicole Lockwood, Freight and Logistics Council of WA
  • John Langoulant, Infrastructure WA
  • Meredith Hammat, UnionsWA
  • Bradley Woods, Australian Hotels Association (WA)
  • Cath Hart, Housing Industry Association
  • John Gelavis, Master Builders Association
  • Tracey Roberts, WALGA
  • Rhys Turton, Farmers Federation
  • Louise Giolitto, WACOSS
  • Michelle Mackenzie, Shelter WA
  • Donna Chung, Women’s Council
  • Evan Hall, Tourism Council WA
  • Ross Wortham, Youth Affairs Council WA
  • Shelagh Magadza, Chamber of Arts and Culture
  • Rod Jones, Study Perth
  • Tanya Steinbeck, UDIA
  • Paula Rogers, CEDA
  • Piers Verstegen, Conservation Council
  • Jonathon Ford, WA Aboriginal Advisory Council
  • John Van Der Wielen, HBF
  • Sandra Brewer, Property Council of WA

Additionally, the government announced that a draft impact statement will be released shortly to address core recovery areas — health, economic and infrastructure, social, industry and regional WA.

“A key part of developing the State Recovery Plan will include a series of Ministerial roundtable discussions with these key stakeholders, face-to-face and virtual, to gather feedback on the draft Impact Statement and to inform the State Recovery Plan.

“The community will be able to contribute their ideas through iThink (WA Public Sector) at ithink.wa.gov.au.”

State wrap

For health department updates: Federal, NSW, Victoria, QueenslandACTSouth AustraliaTasmaniaNorthern Territory and Western Australia.

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