COVID-19 infected is Harts Range police officer

 

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

The two Central Australians testing positive to the COVID-19 virus yesterday are a police officer at Harts Range and his spouse – details Health Minister Natasha Fyles withheld from the public this morning despite intense media questioning.

 

It is likely that reports of the events circulating in town that forced Chief Minister Michael Gunner to come clean.

 

At a media conference this afternoon Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker and Mr Gunner did their best to put the events in a positive light.

 

Commissioner Chalker described the police station (pictured) as being “outside the community of Harts Range” – by about one kilometre – and that the couple had done their best to minimise contact with people on the way from Yulara, where they had landed, and the community north-east of Alice Springs.

 

They had refuelled their car on the way, using contactless pay, Commissioner Chalker said. He would not say where. “That’s a process for Health to undertake.”

 

The pair had been subjected to “despicable” treatment by persons in the community who had “made contact trying to seek the identity of that police officer and trying to get an indication if the had tested positive. That is a role for Health to do.”

 

“Fear and apprehension” had been created by people he did not name.

 

Commissioner Chalker said the pair had observed careful self-isolation, having test kids delivered and left outside their door, and returned them in the same way after use. The couple drove themselves to Alice Springs under escort.

 

Commissioner Chalker said efforts were now under way to “restore calmness” in the community.

 

The officer wants to go back to there when “he is fit and able to continue to serve them.

 

“This is an officer who has moved his family to a remote community to provide a service.”

 

 

 

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21 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Dave
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 9:57 pm

    @ Evelyne: The rules at that time allowed, indeed encouraged, them to do what it is said they did.
    People were transiting all over Australia after arriving from overseas.
    We now know that was poor policy.
    This couple were not obliged to isolate in Yulara, nor Melbourne, their presumed port of entry where they now would be required to.
    I’m inclined to believe the public statements because, if incorrect, careers would be on the line when the truth came out.

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  2. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 5:58 am

    Thank you Dave, your answer reinforces my opinion: They knew the rules of isolation, therefore should have started it when they arrived, at Yulara village where there is police station and medical clinic.

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  3. Dave
    Posted March 29, 2020 at 10:57 pm

    @ Evelyne: Ordinarily their daughter may well have stayed to see her parents, but this time didn’t because her plans for the following two weeks were incompatible with being housebound herself.

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  4. David
    Posted March 29, 2020 at 8:17 am

    @ John Bell. You should just enjoy the Melbourne lifestyle then with all its freedom of movement. That Harts Range police officer deserves all the flak he gets.

    View Comment
  5. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted March 29, 2020 at 5:15 am

    @ Dave: “He indicated their daughter stocked their pantry prior to their arrival in Harts Range.” Good, but I cannot help myself wondering why the daughter did not stay to welcome them back?

    View Comment
  6. Roger
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 9:27 pm

    The particular importance of taking every precaution to keep CV out of our vulnerable Indigenous communities was recognised by the Chief Minister and the Police Commissioner from the outset.
    So while we can certainly question the judgement of the couple in deciding that they should race back to Harts Range to self isolate, this should never have been their decision to make.
    The Chief Minister should already have ordered that all people returning to Indigenous communities from overseas (especially places near northern Italy such as Austria) should first self isolate elsewhere.
    And Hazel is right to have her suspicions. The refusal of the Police Commissioner to own up to where and when the couple stopped on the way home, and his over-emphasis on one transaction being made by contactless payment, does make you wonder.
    I doubt anyone in the history of white settlement would have made the trip from Yulara to Harts Range without stopping, and probably shopping, in Alice.

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  7. John Bell
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    Having read all the reports on this in the Alice Springs News and observing from down here in Melbourne, I am bemused by the criticism of this NT police officer and wife.
    Down here every day I go for a walk and I see groups of cyclists on long training rides.
    They meet at designated places and invariably end their ride at a takeaway coffee place, often in suburbs of inner Melbourne.
    I also see groups of people every day on shopping trips to Northland shopping centre.
    To criticise this police officer and his wife in these circumstances seems almost hypocritical to me.
    All around the country, there are large confusing gaps with what communities are being told.
    This police officer and his wife are copping unfair flak.
    Especially when total lockdown has not been declared and community movement has no reliable monitoring.

    View Comment
  8. David
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    @ Anonymous 2: The Harts Range police officer and his partner may be all you say they are, well and good.
    However there is a deadly coronavirus pandemic sweeping the planet and they have brought it from the other side of the world right to the very front door of the Hartz Range Aboriginal community, a community in lockdown for the very purpose of keeping it safe from the coronavirus in the first place.
    Irresponsibility or poor judgement?
    Surely the police station was manned while this couple had a holiday.
    What about interaction on this couple’s return with those manning the police station? The police station would not have been left unmanned.
    Nothing said about that.
    Fingers crossed they are not infected as well now.
    And @ Reader: Yes grog is still sold at road houses, at least at the ones I know.

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  9. Anonymous 2
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    Having worked at Harts Range, and had the pleasure of meeting this couple on many occasions, I want to vouch for their honest, principled and responsible characters.
    They did all the right things
    Do not persecute or judge this couple, who, from what have seen of them, have always had the interests of the community at heart.
    Plus, the police station is well out of town.
    If there must be blame, then direct it at the government, who only serve to protect the interests of big business in all of this.
    Thus all the wishy washy and confusing messages about “keeping safe” and then blaming the massses for not abiding by their hypocritical protocols.

    View Comment
  10. Dave
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    The clear advice from the Police Commissioner is that the officer and his wife did not stop off in Alice to go shopping, Hazel.
    He indicated their daughter stocked their pantry prior to their arrival in Harts Range.
    They fully complied with the protocol as it was at that time.
    Whether the protocol was correct is a different question.
    I invite you to withdraw your comment.

    View Comment
  11. Reader
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 10:47 am

    @ David: Grog is still being sold at roadhouses? Please tell me this is not true! All roadhouse grog sales must be halted. Too huge a distraction and risk for countrymen and Territorians. Just one infected person in a drinking circle and …
    Gunner please send a clear message that grog sales are extremely restricted and there is no point coming to town or the nearby roadhouse for a Bali weekend.

    View Comment
  12. Hazel
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 8:08 am

    I simply can’t believe what I am reading.
    I personally think it was very selfish and irresponsible to even consider going back to a community after traveling.
    And if drove from Yulara to Harts Range, don’t tell me they didn’t stop for a coffee and a wee at Erldunda and don’t tell me they didn’t stop in Alice to fill their shopping trolley knowing they would end up is isolation.
    I guess we will know in a few days if they really kept their distance.

    View Comment
  13. David
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 7:34 am

    I wonder how you would all react if this police officer and wife lived next door to you and tested positive.
    Would it be – she’ll be right mate? I doubt it.
    It is the privileged who are spreading this virus all over the planet, those with the means to travel.
    Because they dress neat, appear clean and wholesome, considered better class, visit exotic places around the world, stay in world class hotels they can’t be disease carriers. Yet they are.
    Nobody said anything about not supporting the police or law. They are greatly appreciated especially by Aboriginal communities with lockdown in this never before experienced pandemic crisis.
    This police officer should have known better and not gone back to Harts Range community before being certain about their condition.
    He is responsible for giving police a bad look, not the community.
    If the Chief Minister showed better leadership and closed the bottle shops along with all else, then maybe the attacks on police would not have happened.
    Shut down the grog take away at all road houses too Chief Minister. Be decisive, we know you can be.

    View Comment
  14. Anonymous
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 6:37 am

    Did the couple sign a stat dec in Melbourne indicating they would go straight home?

    View Comment
  15. Ralph Folds
    Posted March 27, 2020 at 8:34 pm

    While the officer and his wife should not have been persecuted it is understandable that community members wanted to know if he harboured the virus.
    They would have been terrified that he could infect their own families.
    The fear and apprehension that Commissioner Chalker complains of was well justified.
    Commissioner Chalker must shoulder some of the responsibility for the breakdown of the relationship between the community and the police.

    View Comment
  16. Litmus
    Posted March 27, 2020 at 6:38 pm

    So do I read this correctly? Police and clinic staff along with whitefella council workers kicked out? Who is running the NT? Road block at Cattlewater and Pinnacles tracks.

    View Comment
  17. Watchn
    Posted March 27, 2020 at 6:37 pm

    The virus is not in the open community, thanks to the hard work of the law and those who write and enforce it.
    It will get out and into the population, but hopefully not before there is some good treatment for the SARS and pneumonia.

    View Comment
  18. Lachlan
    Posted March 27, 2020 at 6:21 pm

    I would consider this a huge breach of privacy. Considering not many police at small centre.

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  19. Okay
    Posted March 27, 2020 at 6:16 pm

    And what does his wife do in the community?

    View Comment
  20. Peter
    Posted March 27, 2020 at 6:10 pm

    Lock down the community and test all residents?
    Too late for a lockdown.
    And here in the Territory only sick people are tested.

    View Comment
  21. The Gongoozler
    Posted March 27, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    On behalf of normal people who abide by the corona virus laws, this attack on a police officer is that of those non compus mentis [not sane or in one’s right mind]. 150 people where you live in Alice Springs congregated and spread the virus amongst themselves which is tantamount to murder.
    The police officer did his best to isolate and is now in full isolation.
    Commissioner Chalker advised the police officer did not defy the law and throw rocks at police and ambulance officers as well as the taxi driver incident. Indeed acted most responsibly.
    But then if you never went to school and live on welfare what type of mentality does this portray, hypocrisy on the lowest order.
    This is why police must be supported as anything else will lead to anarchy.
    I am appalled but this is not new, if you think Aboriginal people have not acted irresponsibly in regard to the Coronavirus, come back in two weeks when the cool weather comes and the virus really shows how irresponsible Aboriginal people have been in community.
    It is there alright and nobody knows how many are already infected by their own.

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