NT registers 60 new cases of COVID, brings in mask mandate

The Northern Territory has registered 60 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily number to date, Prime Minister Michael Gunner has confirmed.

There are 24 people with COVID-19 in the hospital and none in the intensive care unit.

Sir. Gunner said 16 were intergovernmental arrivals, 18 were close contacts from previous cases, and 11 are community transmissions.

Ten of the cases are in the Darwin area, four in Tennant Creek and one is in Katherine.

“In the last 72 hours, there has been a growing trend of community transfer,” Mr Gunner said.

“We had one case of community transfer on Wednesday, four cases of community transfer yesterday and at least 11 cases of community transfer today.”

Sir. Gunner said authorities assumed all cases of interstate arrivals and community transmission cases were Omicron.

An area-wide indoor mask mandate will be introduced at 18.00.

“I know the timing of the mandate is not ideal for New Year’s Eve, but the fact is that tonight will be a social evening where people gather in large numbers,” Mr Gunner said.

“Unfortunately, that’s why it’s important that we act now.

“We want to make sure we minimize the risk of potential spread of the virus tonight, you can still go out, we want you to go out.

“We want to have as much fun as you can, but we need you to do this as safely as possible.”

A woman wearing a mask is cycling down a street in Darwin's CBD.
The mask mandate has no end date.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

People in the NT will have to wear a mask while indoors unless they are eating, drinking or 1.5 m away from others.

They must also check in wherever they go.

The new mask rule will also apply to people traveling in taxis and in public transport as well as workplaces.

“There are some common exceptions,” Mr Gunner said.

Sir. Gunner said people at home or with a friend do not have to wear a mask and it would not be required for people who play indoor sports, under the age of 12 or children in primary schools.

The requirement will apply to high school students.

There is no end date for the mesh mandate.

The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) has been demanding a mask mandate in indoor public settings since at least Christmas Eve.

Sir. Gunner said there would be a “high number” of COVID-19 exposure sites listed today on the NT government’s coronavirus website.

Across the territory, 2,757 COVID-19 tests were conducted yesterday.

“That’s a third less than yesterday,” Mr Gunner said.

“But cases have increased by more than 60 percent, so a 33 percent reduction in testing, but an increase of 60 percent in cases.”

More on the way.

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