A temporary morgue set up in a remote community in Queensland has been used by the local council to provide a stark reminder about the effects of Covid-19 as its vaccination rate lags well behind the state’s average.

Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council posted a picture of the temporary morgue on its Facebook page as a grim warning that local residents are at risk of illness and death from the virus. 

The refrigerated storage container had been sent to the island, located 65km north-west of Townsville, by Queensland Health. 

Mayor Mislam Sam warned that the island of 2,600 people could face up to 60 deaths if it did not lift its vaccination rate. 

Only 58.4 per cent of Palm Island’s residents have received two doses of a Covid vaccine, compared with 86.19 per cent of the overall Queensland population 16 years and over.   

The refrigerated storage container had been sent to the island, located 65km north-west of Townsville, by Queensland Health

The refrigerated storage container had been sent to the island, located 65km north-west of Townsville, by Queensland Health

The refrigerated storage container had been sent to the island, located 65km north-west of Townsville, by Queensland Health

Only 58.4 per cent of Palm Island's (pictured) residents have received two doses of a Covid vaccine, compared with 86.14 per cent of the overall Queensland population 16 years and over

Only 58.4 per cent of Palm Island's (pictured) residents have received two doses of a Covid vaccine, compared with 86.14 per cent of the overall Queensland population 16 years and over

Only 58.4 per cent of Palm Island’s (pictured) residents have received two doses of a Covid vaccine, compared with 86.14 per cent of the overall Queensland population 16 years and over

‘We all look at the current infection numbers and think… that we won’t get real sick or die,’ Mayor Sam posted.

‘The big difference is our population is massively under-vaccinated compared to the rest of the Qld.

‘All medical advice to us indicates deaths are anticipated from Covid on Palm and that is an avoidable tragedy waiting to happen.

‘We have very ill people in our community and low vaccination rates.

‘While health authorities must plan for the worst, we can do more to make sure no one needs to use this morgue.’

'I know this is confronting but it¿s time for tough advice to be listened to,' Palm Island Mayor Mislam Sam (pictured) said on Facebook

'I know this is confronting but it¿s time for tough advice to be listened to,' Palm Island Mayor Mislam Sam (pictured) said on Facebook

‘I know this is confronting but it’s time for tough advice to be listened to,’ Palm Island Mayor Mislam Sam (pictured) said on Facebook

NRL stars such as Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow from the North Queensland Cowboys (pictured), visited the island in November to encourage residents to get vaccinated

NRL stars such as Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow from the North Queensland Cowboys (pictured), visited the island in November to encourage residents to get vaccinated

NRL stars such as Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow from the North Queensland Cowboys (pictured), visited the island in November to encourage residents to get vaccinated

The mayor urged residents to come forward for vaccination at Palm Island Community Company and the Joyce Palmer Health Service.     

‘I know this is confronting but it’s time for tough advice to be listened to,’ he said.

‘It’s too late after the surge. We’ve spent months and months and months getting ready. 

‘Health advise the facility will be ready from January 5. Let’s make sure we never need to use it please.’

Some people thought the presence of the morgue was an inappropriate way to encourage vaccination on the island.

‘I’m all for encouraging people to get vaccinated but this is not the way to go about it,’ one person commented on Facebook.

‘Biggest scaremongering I have seen… all to boost vaccination numbers,’ wrote another. ‘Come on Queensland Health, do better.’ 

‘How bloody disgraceful to instill fear within the community,’ posted another person. 

In an earlier post the Mayor noted the incursion of the virus on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait.

‘There’s every reason to think with all the cases in Townsville that some of our residents have already been exposed.’ 

On Wednesday, eight new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed on Thursday Island after an initial cases was identified on Tuesday.

That first case was a double vaccinated person who is believed to have acquired the infection on  a trip to Sydney. Not all of the new cases on the island are vaccinated.

‘It’s certainly been a shock to the community… it’s caused a ripple effect into our community,’ Thursday Island Mayor Vonda Malone told the ABC. 

Far North Queensland indigenous communities have used any means to encourage local populations to get vaccinated, including visits from NRL stars such as Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow from the Cowboys, who visited the island in November. 

The Federal government had identified the island as a Local Government ‘area of focus’ under the the vaccine rollout program, Operation Covid Shield. 

In May the island’s residents had been praised by health officials, after 444 people showed up to receive their first dose of a Covid vaccine. 

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