SA Labor drafts urgent legislation to close Kangaroo Island

One of SeaLink's ferries arrives at Penneshaw. File photo SeaLink
One of SeaLink's ferries arrives at Penneshaw. File photo SeaLink

Labor has drafted urgent legislation to close Kangaroo Island to visitors to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Labor's Emergency Management (COVID-19) (Kangaroo Island Arrivals) Amendment Bill 2020 would mirror restrictions on the SA border, with exemptions for Kangaroo Island residents, freight, emergency services and people with specialist skills that are not available on the island.

But the State Government seems to be unmoved by calls by the KI community and the council to stop non-essential travel to the Island.

Deputy Premier and Island native Vickie Chapman dismissed calls for control while SA Police commissioner and State emergency coordinator Grant Stevens was quoted by News Limited saying "he did not support a travel ban to the island, saying it was being treated like every other part of SA."

Premier Steven Marshall and the State Government have implemented a public campaign advising against holiday travel to regional areas.

"Non-essential travel means just that - please rethink your holidays. As hard as it is, we need to look after our entire community, across the whole state," Mr Marshall said.

The WA Government meanwhile has used its powers to close off the community of Esperance, part of a total lockdown of the State.

Labor's exemptions for any KI travel restrictions would ensure bushfire recovery work can continue during the coronavirus pandemic.

The restrictions could be varied by the State Coordinator and would automatically expire after the declared State of Emergency ends.

Kangaroo Island recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in recent days. The Island is particularly exposed in the event of an outbreak, given the limited available health care services.

More than a week ago, Labor Leader Peter Malinauskas and Member for Mawson Leon Bignell wrote to Premier Steven Marshall calling for a shutdown of non- essential travel to KI.

"Closing the South Australian border has helped slow the spread of COVID-19 and the time has come to do the same on Kangaroo Island," Shadow Attorney-General Kyam Maher said.

"This is a common sense measure and I want to work with the government."

Member for Mawson Leon Bignell said the Island didn't have the medical facilities on Kangaroo Island to deal with an outbreak.

"I am concerned we will see an influx of visitors during the upcoming school holidays and Easter long weekend," Mr Bignell said.

Kangaroo Island Council resolved at a special meeting on Thursday, April 2 to write to the State emergency coordinator, SA Police commissioner Grant Stevens, calling for the immediate closure of Kangaroo Island to all non-essential travel.

The carried resolution makes an exception for residents and ratepayers travelling between the Island and mainland for medical, compassionate or other emergency reasons.

Residents are defined as those with a Kangaroo Island address on their drivers licence.

The motion called for all residents and ratepayers returning to the Island to self-quarantine for 14 days under the access restrictions.

Council further agreed to request the Government include all activities associated with the bushfire recovery efforts as essential services, along with medical and mental health services.

The Elected Members also voted in favour of expediting essential bushfire recovery efforts, requesting the Government give priority to facilitating virus control and return to normal activities, by the earliest possible progressive introduction of and ongoing testing for COVID-19.

The motion was motivated following strong representations from residents and business owners and a genuine desire to protect the health and well-being of local residents.

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