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mayor in Far North Queensland says she is concerned about COVID-19 entering Australia from nearby Papua New Guinea.
PNG has recorded its first suspected coronavirus death in the capital Port Moresby, which has entered a 14-day shutdown.
Torres Shire Mayor Vonda Malone said border controls might need to be tightened to stop PNG nationals entering the Torres Strait for emergency health care.
“The treatment of PNG nationals really needs to be looked into,” Cr Malone said.
“With the heightened cases, now that we're in this unfortunate position, we need to revisit and see if there are other measures, stricter measures that need to be put in place.”
There have been at least 62 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in PNG, the majority over the past 10 days, but Prime Minister James Marape warned there could be thousands of other cases yet to be identified.
Cook Shire Mayor Peter Scott, whose electorate covers an enormous area of Cape York, said he understood the concerns of Torres Strait leaders.
“There's always a possibility of people coming across and making their way here, but I do take comfort that the Government is doing enough to control the borders.”
Before the pandemic, residents of 13 PNG coastal villages could visit island communities under the Torres Strait Treaty without a passport or visa.
Warren Entsch, whose federal electorate covers the Torres Strait, said the government banned all travel between Torres Strait and PNG islands in February under coronavirus restrictions.
However, he said PNG nationals could still travel to the Torres Strait for “medical emergencies”.
He said Australia had also been sending supplies to PNG islands that traditionally relied on Torres Strait trade in order to stop non-essential travel between islands.
“They've sent me the shopping list of everything they needed and that's being distributed,” he said
Queensland's Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Craig Crawford, said Australia should increase its support to PNG.
“[Torres Strait islands] are the only part of Australia that shares an international border so close — you can physically see PNG from some of the islands,” he said.
“If we can actually put Australian experts on the ground in Port Moresby that are experts in being able to help them manage the outbreak they have got, that will put us in a far better position to be able to make sure that we can protect the borders,” he said.
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