Fri. Jul 1st, 2022

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner says lockout restrictions are likely to be lifted in Greater Katherine on Wednesday despite a high probability that more COVID-19 cases will be found in the region in the coming days.

Sir. Gunner announced today that NT had not registered new cases of COVID-19 overnight.

At a COVID-19 update press conference, Mr Gunner said the authorities had succeeded in suppressing the ongoing NT outbreak, but that they “had not succeeded in ending it completely”.

Sir. Gunner said the NT was now “good and true at the point where COVID zero no longer exists, either as a strategy or as a reality”.

“Our strategy with this outbreak has been aggressive repression,” he said.

“That’s why we locked down quickly. It worked. It came into some communities, but it did not spread across the territory. It was kept under control.

The total number of cases in the current outbreak remains at 61.

A woman wearing a face mask walks in front of a colorful mural on a street.
The COVID lockout in Katherine is likely to be lifted by noon on Wednesday. (ABC News: Che Chorley)

Lockout restrictions in Greater Katherine are to be lifted by noon on Wednesday, with a mask mandate to remain in place for a week after the lockout ends.

Sir. Gunner said authorities expected more cases in Katherine, where wastewater test results from the Bicentennial Road catchment area indicate a positive signal strength “higher than it has been for some time”.

But he said more cases would not necessarily lead to an extension of the lockout.

“We expect more cases, but if they are not scattered cases in the local community, it will still be our intention to continue to lift the lockout,” he said.

“This is based on the evidence that, although we can not completely remove COVID from society, it does not reproduce at a rate or in a way that will give us significant concern.

“For our future decision-making, we will have more focus on the speed and extent of the spread rather than just the number of new cases.

“We’re going to keep seeing cases emerge. A case here and there does not necessarily mean a society goes into lockdown or lockout. It depends on where it is, what links there are, what the vulnerabilities are.

Sir. Gunner said the source of the positive wastewater results could be among the 30 close contacts from a three-year-old girl in Katherine, which was reported as a positive case yesterday.

The close contacts, which are spread across three households in Katherine East, are all within the Bicentennial Road catchment area, and authorities are still awaiting the results of their COVID tests.

Sewage samples in Binjari, just outside Katherine, test negative for COVID.

Sir. Gunner said the final decision to lift the Katherine lockout would be made tomorrow morning based on advice from the Chief Health Officer and will be informed of test results expected to come during the night.

Lockout lifted in Lajamanu

Lajamanu will come out of lockout at noon today after the latest round of sewage samples from the community came back negative for COVID, Mr Gunner said.

The community, located about 560 miles southwest of Katherine, was sent into lockdown on Nov. 28 after wastewater samples tested positive and then transitioned to a lockout on Dec. 1.

NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker congratulated members of the local community on the result.

“Your collective support, the way you worked with ours [rapid assessment] team [and] the test regime that was in place has ultimately helped realize the outcome of dinner today. Congratulations to you and thank you for taking care of our people who were there to support you, “he said.

Police are still looking for quarantine disappearances

Commissioner Chalker said police were still working to locate 27-year-old Jeremy MacDonald, who allegedly escaped from Alice Springs’ Todd COVID quarantine facility last Friday by climbing out through a balcony.

He is one of six people who allegedly fled from NT’s quarantine facilities last week, and is the only one not yet found.

A police officer speaks at a media conference.  He looks serious.
Commissioner Chalker says police have dedicated extra resources to finding Mr MacDonald.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Commissioner Chalker said Mr MacDonald was known to police and that additional resources had been sent to Alice Springs to find him.

“He’s a target known to the police and there are some other activities going on that we think [are] encourage him to stay out of our focus, “he said.

“I sent additional resources down there in an attempt to find him.

“We will bring the pressure to increase to make sure he shows up sooner rather than later, even if he has crossed borders and is on his way between the state.”

Commissioner Chalker said all the recent disappearances that had been found would be fined $ 5,024 for violating the Chief Health Officer’s guidelines once they finished their time in quarantine.

He declined to give updates on the criminal investigation into the cause of NT’s first COVID death, as he previously said “apparently [has] links to a breach of the Chief Health Officer’s instructions, “or the forensic findings of a chemical that was allegedly thrown at police during an anti-vaccine mandate protest last month.

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