Wilcannia Covid outbreak: Aboriginal rapper describes nightmare in virus-stricken remote NSW town

An Aboriginal rapper has described the nightmare set in a remote town in far west NSW, where a Covid outbreak is wreaking havoc on the Indigenous community.

Barkindji wife Chloe Quayle, who goes by the name Barkaa, grew up visiting relatives in Wilcannia, fishing and playing in the Darling River.

But the once ‘thriving’ community has turned into a disaster area, where Covid-positive people have been forced to isolate themselves in riverside tents and sleep in the front yard due to overcrowding in houses.

There are now 75 cases in the predominantly Aboriginal outback city, which is home to 750 people.

Barkindji wife Chloe Quayle (pictured), acting under the name Barkaa, has described the 'nightmare' Covid crisis unfolding in Wilcannia, in the far far west of NSW

Barkindji wife Chloe Quayle (pictured), acting under the name Barkaa, has described the ‘nightmare’ Covid crisis unfolding in Wilcannia, in the far far west of NSW

Ms Quayle said that young people in the community who have contracted an illness are afraid they could die.

“It’s going through the community like wildfire right now, which is really scary,” she told ABC. Today’s world program.

“As a Barkinji woman, this was my worst nightmare that it ever hit my community, especially when we know the statistics and our mafia’s early death rates from colonial diseases.

“It’s heartbreaking. I just hope my mafia gets through this. It’s so scary it feels like a nightmare.’

Ms Quayle said her cousin, who is very ill and struggling to breathe after contracting the virus, fears she could die and leave her children behind.

The musician said she has started to feel better in recent days and is more hopeful as she awaits test results to see if she still has the virus.

Meanwhile, residents have reported major food supply problems as there are hours of queues in front of the city’s only supermarket as a staff member collects each individual order.

Local woman Monica Kerwin-Whyman said food parcels delivered by the government contained outdated items, and some were high in salt and sugar, which is unsuitable for many local residents with chronic diabetes.

She said authorities also discouraged the distribution of fresh kangaroo meat to residents over food safety concerns, despite game hunting being a cultural tradition.

Ms Quayle said she is deeply concerned about the Indigenous community, who are vulnerable to disease

Ms Quayle said she is deeply concerned about the Indigenous community, who are vulnerable to disease

Ms Quayle said she is deeply concerned about the Indigenous community, who are vulnerable to disease

Ms Quayle said people who test positive for Covid in the outback city (pictured) are being forced to sleep in tents outside houses or by the river to isolate

Ms Quayle said people who test positive for Covid in the outback city (pictured) are being forced to sleep in tents outside houses or by the river to isolate

Ms Quayle said people who test positive for Covid in the outback city (pictured) are being forced to sleep in tents outside houses or by the river to isolate

“They treat us like a Sydney suburb,” Ms Kerwin-Whyman said in a video shared on Facebook.

“They say ‘go call UberEats’. In Wilcannia? We are 200km from the next largest community in Broken Hill where they deliver fast food.

“If you don’t cook for yourself in Wilcannia, you’ll get hungry because everything closes at 7pm.”

Locals also reported that a Covid-positive woman struggling with a serious illness was sent away from the hospital.

Daily Mail Australia has contacted the local emergency management committee for the Central Darling Shire for comment.

The majority of Covid cases – 65 percent – have been identified in people of Aboriginal descent.

While there has been a jump in the number of needles administered to the region’s indigenous residents – it has nearly doubled in the past three weeks – the percentage still lags behind the wider population of the region.

Only 6.3 percent of the native population in the area is fully vaccinated, compared to 26 percent of the general population.

Federal Labor’s Linda Burney said what is happening in the Indigenous communities in western and far west NSW is “a disaster” with one in 10 people infected with Covid.

She said it is nearly impossible for people to isolate themselves in those communities because of the overcrowding in homes.

“Three or four bedroom houses are home to 16, 17 people, and my understanding is that people who have been diagnosed with the virus are sent to isolate but go back to very crowded conditions,” she told the ABC on Tuesday.

Local Monica Kerwin-Whyman (pictured) shared a Facebook video that shed light on food supply problems in Wilcannia

Local Monica Kerwin-Whyman (pictured) shared a Facebook video that shed light on food supply problems in Wilcannia

Local Monica Kerwin-Whyman (pictured) shared a Facebook video that shed light on food supply problems in Wilcannia

“People shouldn’t be pitching tents in their front yards to comply with this.

“So isolation hubs need to be close to home and staffed by people who understand the local community.”

The federal government was warned in March 2020 “that this was inevitable and now what was predicted is happening.”

“My fear is that this will leak out of those communities and reach other vulnerable populations,” Ms Burney said.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the federal government’s failure to vaccinate NSW’s indigenous communities was “obviously disappointing”.

However, urgent efforts were now underway to provide accommodation for Covid-positive patients in quarantine in remote communities.

“I think there is one motel from memory in Wilcannia and finding alternative accommodation has been a challenge,” he said.

The state government is trying to expedite the approval of plans to build movable accommodation in Wilcannia so that positive people can isolate themselves safely.

“It’s quite a challenge and it would certainly have been better if the Indigenous community, the Aboriginal people across NSW, had been vaccinated earlier,” he said.

NSW reported 1,164 new locally acquired Covid cases and three deaths on Tuesday, while the entire state remains on lockdown.

Of the new cases, 54 were registered in the western NSW district, with 32 in Dubbo, five in Bathurst, eight in Bourke, one in Brewarrina, five in Wellington, one in Mudgee, one in Narromine and one in Parkes.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the federal government’s failure to vaccinate NSW’s indigenous communities last year was “clearly disappointing”. Pictured: A newspaper article about the Wilcannia crisis

The three deaths recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday include a woman in her 50s from southwestern Sydney, a man in his 80s from Sydney and a man in his 90s from southwestern Sydney. .

It brings the outbreak toll to 96 and 152 for the entire pandemic.

NSW health authorities have warned that October will likely be the worst month for the state’s health system due to a build-up of infections from the previous weeks.

The number of Covid patients in NSW hospitals stands at 871, with 143 patients in intensive care and 58 on a ventilator.

Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said the number of hospital admissions per infection would continue to fall as more NSW residents are vaccinated, but the total number of hospital admissions would likely increase as the number of infections increases.

“We’re going to see more cases, but if the majority of the population gets vaccinated, the majority of those cases won’t need to be hospitalized,” she said.

“The health system is prepared, but will it stretch? Absolute.’

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