Northern Territory has registered 17 new COVID-19 cases overnight, 16 of which are linked to the current outbreak.
- The new local cases bring the Katherine cluster up to 87
- A new CHO direction has been issued for people who have spent time in Katherine
- People who have been in Katherine since November 29 and since traveled should be tested
This is the territory’s largest daily increase to date in the event of a pandemic
Fourteen of the new cases are from households in four streets in Katherine East, where a test flash had taken place.
Following the rise in cases, the NT’s highest aboriginal health body has called on the NT government to aggressively strengthen its response to the current outbreak.
To counter what it calls a “continuing crisis,” the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) has asked the NT government to immediately close the Big Rivers region, which includes Katherine.
The NT government should also start introducing vaccine passports throughout the region during the lockdown period, AMSANT says.
The organization has also asked the NT government to request an “extra workforce” from the Commonwealth to help with testing and vaccination in remote communities.
“We recognize the very good work that the NT Government has done in responding to the outbreaks in Robinson River, Binjari and Rockhole,” said AMSANT CEO John Paterson.
“But subsequent measures to curb the Katherine outbreak have failed.
“The current situation – with minimal restrictions on movement for those from vulnerable areas and with vaccination rates in all but one community that is not high enough to be fully protective – cannot continue.”
Of the 14 cases detected in Katherine East households, eight are children under the age of 12, five are in their 20s, 30s or 40s, and one is a 70-year-old woman.
The remaining two cases – a teenage boy and a man in their 70s – are already in quarantine.
There was also a positive case from an international repatriation flight.
“It’s a big number, but it’s a number we expected,” said Deputy Secretary of State Nicole Manison.
“The flash is working. We’re finding the cases that we thought were there.”
The new cases bring the total number in the current outbreak to 87.
Manison said authorities had also discovered another possible case – a Binjari resident who was visiting Timber Creek.
“He has returned a preliminary positive result, but it still needs to be confirmed,” she said.
The man is in isolation and there are no health instructions in place for Timber Creek.
Katherine named ‘ground zero for COVID’
Manison said a new Chief Health Officer directive had been issued for people who have spent time in Katherine, Binjari or Rockhole since Monday, Nov. 29, and have since left the Katherine area.
These people will be referred for a COVID test within the next three days.
She said authorities now effectively treated the entire Katherine as a place of exposure.
“Obviously, Katherine has been the zero point of COVID in the territory,” she said.
“The problem we have now is the high probability that it is expected to spread from Katherine to other communities.
“If we get cases in any of these communities within the next few days, there’s a 99 percent chance it’s come from Katherine.
“If you’ve been to Katherine’s at some point in the last two weeks in these areas and you’re now outside of Katherine, take a test within the next three days.”
Individuals covered by the new test requirements do not need to isolate themselves.
Authorities are preparing for more remote cases
Manison said there was a “very strong chance” that remote communities would register COVID cases in the coming days.
Yesterday, authorities announced that positive wastewater had been found in Tennant Creek and five remote communities near Katherine – Bulla, Daguragu, Pigeonhole, Kalkarindji and Lajamanu.
Positive cases, Ms Manison said today, are likely to require lockout restrictions for communities where cases were detected.
“For the other communities where we have received positive wastewater results in the last few days, we expect to get another round of results back later in the day,” she said.
“I would like to point out that there is a very high chance that there will be local communities that have active cases.
“So it’s likely we’ll have to scale our response to some of these communities to a lockout over the next day or two.
“So that means shutting down people who are not fully vaccinated. And I want these communities to be prepared for that.”
Ms Manison said all residents of the remote community of Beswick, who went into a lockout on Saturday after a positive detection of wastewater, should be tested at the end of the day.
She said a rapid assessment team took 305 tests in the community yesterday.
However, she said only five people signed up for testing in Tennant Creek.
“It’s honestly not good enough,” she said.
“When we have positive wastewater, we really need a higher test rate.
“I really encourage everyone in Tennant Creek, if you have the slightest of symptoms, that’s reason enough to go ahead and get a COVID test. Please get tested.”