Lord Howe Island has joined the world in its efforts to suppress the overwhelming spread of COVID-19. With the communities health and wellbeing at the forefront of everyone’s mind over the last few weeks, the LHIB along with the LHI Tourism Association supported the recommendation that Lord Howe’s passenger transport services be rapidly limited to provide an effective buffer between our community and COVID-19 present on mainland Australia.
As of 22nd March 2020 at 5am, an Order made by the Minister for Health and Research, The Hon. Brad Hazzard, limited all travel to Lord Howe Island. Visitors have made an effort to return to the mainland over the period from Sunday 22nd to Thursday 26th March.
As of 26/03/20, regular Qantas service to the Island has been reduced to just one flight per week, scheduled for each Tuesday. It is understood that these will continue and that the NSW Government have underwritten these to ensure they continue.
Residents are permitted to leave and return under the Order, however, it is stressed that a strict 14-day quarantine will apply to anyone returning. It is very important that residents only travel to the mainland and return if it is critical that they do so. Producing a photo ID has been the method used for demonstrating to Qantas and Eastern Air Services that a resident can board the aircraft. A method of providing a resident with a document that shows they are a resident as defined under the Lord Howe Island Act will be initiated to give residents greater confidence that they will be able to return once they have demonstrated that they are a resident.
By significantly reducing travel, we reduce the risk of the virus entering Lord Howe. This is a key way of protecting our community and most vulnerable community members during this time. Const. Heath Roberts is the arrivals officer during this time and will be meeting all arrivals with information on their 14-day quarantine period and ensuring newly introduced arrival and departure cards are completed.
Those arriving on the island are subject to strict isolation (quarantine) requirements and not complying with the Order does have some significant penalties.
There have been many questions over the last week with regard to quarantine, restaurant closures, social distancing and the health implications of the actions that have been put in place. We are working on updating the Q&A to address many of these questions. Whilst daily changes to state and federal regulation mean this information is soon superseded, the information we have will be updated regularly.
A question that has been frequently asked relates to adult children of residents returning to the Island. (Non-adult children are normally residents and could therefore return). We are currently working through the process of applying for adult children to apply to return to the island as an exception on compassionate grounds. If you have an enquiry please contact the LHIB and we will assist you with this process. Under the Order, the Coordinator General is able to make the decision to make an exception and allow a non-resident to access the island. The need to minimise the number of people coming to Lord Howe because each arrival introduces some risk of COVID-19 arriving, and balancing this with compassionate and essential service reasons will be challenging for the Coordinator General.
In the same way, the Coordinator General will be able to approve other non-residents arriving on the island but they will need to be able to demonstrate that their access is essential and how their isolation/quarantine arrangements will meet the Department of Health’s requirements. Urgent access with alternate isolation conditions may also be approved if the Coordinator General is satisfied that urgency and health safety objectives are met.
If you wish to make application for the Coordinator General to consider an exception to the travel restriction Order, please contact the Board Administration who can provide a form to make application. This form is being prepared at the moment and its design needs to ensure sufficient information is provided to support the application.
Another question has been the use of the playground and exercise equipment, the consensus is that regular cleaning does not happen on this equipment. If you would like to use the playground or gym equipment please ensure you follow personal hygiene practices when choosing to use the equipment.
The LHIB has been working closely and daily with local representatives of NSW Health, NSW Police and the Department of Education to understand and implement daily responses and changes that affect Lord Howe Island and our community and will be providing local information updates on a regular basis moving forward.
The Lord Howe Island community is a caring and resilient community. These important characteristics will enable us to stay strong and look after each other during these uncertain times we are facing.