Kangaroo Island residents continue call for formal travel restrictions to Island

A locally created poster to discourage travel to Kangaroo Island.

A locally created poster to discourage travel to Kangaroo Island.

Kangaroo Island residents continue to call for more formal travel restrictions to the Island to reduce the coronavirus risk and potential strain on the Island's limited health services.

State and Federal members support greater restrictions after fielding lots of calls from residents concerned about an influx of visitors over Easter, including part-time residents and holiday house owners.

Doctors at the KI Medical Clinic in their latest coronavirus update are also calling for all tourism to stop.

"We remain of the firm view that tourism and non-essential travel to KI MUST STOP immediately, and continue to advocate to the appropriate authorities in this regard," the statement reads.

"If you have friends or family wanting to visit, please ask them to postpone their trip. This is vital to enable us to manage our local health system."

The Islander spoke to Premier Steven Marshall on Saturday, who agreed KI was vulnerable and non-essential trips should end, but he stopped short of supporting any more formal action.

The premier said he shared the view that Kangaroo Island was a unique case. And like other remote areas, the Island was at a disadvantage when it came to health services in a coronavirus outbreak.

He said he was very pleased to have had discussions with the mayor, doctors Susie Keynes and Jeremy Wells and tourism association chairman Pierre Gregor in recent weeks.

He said his Government had now sent out the non-essential travel advice for KI and other regional areas based on the advice of the SA chief medical officer.

The Government would continue to look at ways of getting the message out. He said he believed the message of staying at home was getting through and he urged everyone to avoid non-essential travel and follow the advice of the Government and health officials.

Elected officials

State Member Leon Bignell said he received numerous calls and emails from concerned KI residents wanting more restrictions.

Mr Bignell and the SA opposition leader Peter Malinauskaswrote a joint letter to the Premier on Friday, March 27 calling for a formal travel order for Kangaroo Island. This was his second letter.

He said it was not about politics but listening to the residents of the Island, and the State Government should be looking at tighter controls on regional travel to remote and vulnerable areas across SA.

Mr Bignell said the SeaLink ferry company and airlines should be issued State Government paperwork with all passengers made to sign that paperwork stating they were essential.

Island residents who visit the mainland for non-essential services should also be made to self quarantine.

"We could learn a lot from what's been done in Tasmania," he said.

Vehicles and people on Emu Bay beach on Saturday, March 28. Photo Facebook

Vehicles and people on Emu Bay beach on Saturday, March 28. Photo Facebook

The Kangaroo Island Council is due to discuss travel restrictions at a special, phone hook-up council meeting at 4pm on Tuesday, March 31.

Discussion was likely to include whether non-resident, holiday home owners should be allowed to visit.

Deputy mayor Bob Teasdale was of the view that all non-resident, non-essential travel should be stopped, including holiday house owners.

Mayor Michael Pengilly said he was comfortable the message was getting through not to visit.

He was however concerned to see groups, including locals, gathering at Emu Bay Beach on Saturday.

"There's just absolutely no reason to come here at the moment, everything's closed - camp grounds, caravan parks, Seal Bay, shops, everything's closed and people are staying home. So, there's no point and I think it's actually selfish if people continue to come," Mr Pengilly told an Adelaide radio station on Monday morning.

"It's very selfish and they're better off doing as the Prime Minister is saying. Stay home, just don't come. Look, we'd love to see you back when this debacle's over, absolutely loved to see you back, but at the moment do as you're told and stay home."

Federal Member Rebekha Sharkie meanwhile is calling for formal restrictions to the Island.

"I have received an overwhelming number of emails and phone calls from Island residents deeply concerned about COVID-19 and the consensus is that while tourism is a key economic driver for KI, right now the health and safety of the community must take priority.

"As a result I have sent a formal letter to the Premier asking him to implement urgent measures to control the number of non-essential visitors to the Island.

"I have also had private conversations with the Premier where I shared the sentiments of the community and their very deep concerns about Sealink's ferry booking policy and requested that he take action.

"We need to take the advice about COVID-19 seriously and everyone needs to do their bit. I am self-isolating right now after coming back from Canberra. I feel fine but it's not about how I feel, it's about the safety of the community."

There is now also an online petition at Change.org asking the Premier to declare KI a "no-go zone" for non-essential travel. Almost 2500 people have signed the petition so far.

The Islander also started another poll:

SeaLink statement

We are receiving many enquiries regarding travel to and from Kangaroo Island. SeaLink Kangaroo Island is following the direction and advice from the Federal and State Governments in relation to essential and non-essential services.

The Premier of South Australia and SA Health have advised that at this time, due to COVID-19, non-essential travel to Kangaroo Island and other regions of South Australia should not be taken and holidays, including over the Easter period, should not occur. For existing travel bookings during this time, we hope you will choose to postpone or reschedule your travel to another date. We invite you to call us on 13 13 01 or email bookings@sealink.com.au to make arrangements, however, we do ask for your patience as we are dealing with an enormous amount of calls and enquiries.

For your information, SeaLink's Kangaroo Island ferry services, on-island shuttle buses and mainland coach connections are currently operating on amended schedules. These are deemed as essential services providing public transport facilities for freight, emergency services and residents and will continue to operate.

On March 24, SeaLink suspended all non-essential services including day tours and overnight tours, Kangaroo Island Odysseys tours and Kangaroo Island Adventure tours.

KI Medical Clinic update

Thank you to everyone who watched and shared Dr Wells' video this week, and particularly to those community members and businesses who have made enormous sacrifices in an effort to reduce the potential for spread of infection. We truly appreciate what you are doing to look after the more vulnerable members of our community.

Below we have provided some updates about our services and current advice.

Most importantly - if you are sick and unsure about what to do - we are here for you. Please phone us on 8553 2037 so we can arrange a phone consult to decide whether you need testing and/or assessment.

- - Updated information regarding our appointment system - -

We have now transitioned to offering predominantly telephone-based consults.

If you need an appointment, please phone the clinic on 8553 2037 to book a telephone consult. Our appointments are generally being offered on the day (that is, phone at 8:45 am to make an appointment), however our staff are always happy to take a call at any time of day if you are unwell and unsure about what to do.

Once your doctor has discussed your issues over the phone, they can advise whether you need to be seen in person, and provide further instructions for attending the Clinic or the Hospital. As of Monday 30th March, a Medicare rebate will apply to all telephone consults.

Importantly, we ask that you please do not attend the Medical Clinic or Hospital if you have cold and flu symptoms, unless you are advised by staff to do so.

If you are required to attend the clinic, we ask that you follow strict hygiene guidelines outlined at the entrance and throughout the clinic. Please also follow instructions from our reception staff about wearing of appropriate PPE, and where to sit to wait for your appointment. Please be prepared that we may ask you to wait in your car. Unfortunately we are no longer able to take cash payments. Please be vigilant with ensuring any PPE, tissues, plastic cups etc. are placed in bins immediately after use.

Importantly, we will require patients to take the following precautions. Ask yourself:

1. Do you have a cough, cold or flu symptoms, or fever?

2. Have you travelled overseas or interstate recently or have you had contact with someone diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?

If you have answered yes to both of these questions, and you are well enough, please self-isolate at your residence and call the clinic on 8553 2037 (business hours) or hospital 8553 4200 (after hours) for further instructions.

If you have answered yes to both of these questions, and you are in distress, please attend the KI Health Service (phone ahead if able). If you are attending the KI Health Service, please follow the advice of staff, and do not enter the hospital until advised to do so. In an emergency, dial 000.

- - COVID-19 testing - -

A testing centre has been established near the hospital. If you are concerned that you require testing, please phone the clinic on 8553 2037 during business hours or the hospital on 8553 4200 after hours. Staff will ask you some screening questions and then, if indicated, give you instructions for testing. Please do not attend the testing centre until you have been advised to do so by clinic or hospital staff.

- - Flu vaccinations - -

We have had lots of enquiries about flu vaccinations and are working with SA Health and our private suppliers to secure stock as soon as possible. At this stage we expect they will arrive by mid-April and we are currently making plans for flu vaccination clinics. We expect to be able to provide more information within the next two weeks.

- - Our advice in relation to reducing the risk of infection - -

The importance of social distancing at this time cannot be overstated. It is our best defence against the spread of infection.

Our advice remains the same:

Please practice dedicated physical distancing. Before you leave home, ask yourself - is it absolutely necessary? Can it be substituted? Can it be postponed? If you do need to go out (for example, to the supermarket or pharmacy) please go alone, and practice exceptional hand and respiratory hygiene.

We advise that children are kept home from school or childcare, however NOT if it means they are not at home, NOT if it means they are in the care of a grandparent or vulnerable person; and NOT if it means that healthcare or other essential workers can't go to work.

We remain of the firm view that tourism and non-essential travel to KI MUST STOP immediately, and continue to advocate to the appropriate authorities in this regard. If you have friends or family wanting to visit, please ask them to postpone their trip. This is vital to enable us to manage our local health system.

- - Further information and links - -

Further information from SA Health can be found at https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/.../information+for+the+commun...

The SA COVID-19 Information Line can be contacted by phone 1800 253 787.

The National Coronavirus Information Hotline can be contacted by phone 1800 020 080.

Please note that this information is current as at 29th March 2020 but is likely to change. Updates will be provided regularly.

This story KI residents continue call for formal travel restrictions to Island first appeared on The Islander.