Fewer than 60 indigenous coronavirus cases

Brendan Murphy says less than one per cent of Australian virus cases occurred in indigenous people.
Brendan Murphy says less than one per cent of Australian virus cases occurred in indigenous people.

There have been 59 cases of coronavirus in indigenous Australians, a Senate inquiry has heard.

None of those have been in remote indigenous communities, which have been closed during the pandemic.

The lockdown for communities in the Northern Territory will ease from Friday.

Officials from the Department of Health told a Senate inquiry that policies are in place in the instance there's a case in a remote area.

Labor's indigenous affairs spokeswoman Linda Burney earlier said a major issue is that many remote communities do not have clean water so things like dialysis machines cannot be properly used.

Overcrowding is also a concern for people living in impoverished communities during the pandemic.

"It's impossible to have social distancing if you're in a three-bedroom home with 20 people living in it," Ms Burney said.

Labor wants to know if a national referendum on recognising indigenous people in the constitution has been delayed because of the coronavirus crisis.

The Morrison government has been non-committal on the timing on a referendum despite Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt's optimism of achieving reform in this electoral cycle.

Australian Associated Press