What you need to know about new NT COVID-19 rules for exposure sites, tight contacts, masks

Hours away from the start of New Year’s Eve, Northern Territory’s COVID-19 rules and regulations have changed again.

Masks are now mandatory while indoors, and the Northern Territory has agreed to adopt new national rules on close contacts and places of exposure, despite yesterday’s proposal that it may announce other measures.

The government’s website for coronavirus was updated late this afternoon, with dozens of new exposure sites now listed.

As midnight quickly approaches, what do people need to know before going out?

And what will be the new rules for 2022?

New Year’s Eve celebration

The good news is: You’re still allowed to go out and celebrate tonight, but you’ll have to wear a mask if you’re on your way to a pub or club.

The rule of indoor mask comes into force at. 18.00 and will apply throughout the territory.

If you drink, eat or are 1.5 m away from others, you can take the mask off, but you need to keep it on your face the rest of the time while you are indoors.

That means mask-on in taxis, ride-shares or catching public transportation.

If you are at home or with a friend, you do not need to put on the mask.

Remember to check in everywhere you go and stay home if you feel sick.

a QR code check-in at a market
Territorians will receive an automatic SMS alert if they checked into a venue at the same time as a positive COVID-19 case.(ABC News: Hamish Harty)

Free masks will be handed out at tonight’s Darwin Waterfront concert, which seats 9,000 people.

NT Police will also be out tonight making sure people abide by the new rules, and please do not make trouble for staff trying to enforce them.

What about masks in 2022?

There is no end date for the mask mandate, which means that masks will be back in vogue in the foreseeable future.

You do not have to wear a mask if you play indoor sports or in the gym.

Children under the age of 12 or elementary school students do not have to wear one, though high school students will.

It is not mandatory to wear a mask while outdoors, but the authorities “recommend” it if you can not keep 1.5 m distance to others.

Northern Territory may also reintroduce lockouts or lockdowns if the rate of community transmission increases further, so be prepared.

Exposure sites will not be listed in the future

So far, exposure sites can still be found on the Northern Territory Government’s coronavirus website.

But that will change as the number of exposure sites grows beyond the ability of contact trackers, and the sites will no longer be listed online.

Instead, contacts will be alerted with a text message – which will not be personal – based on their check-in history.

These warnings will be generic and automatic and will not tell people which exposure site they visited or when.

Instead, these messages will tell people that they have visited an exposure site recently and will need to monitor for symptoms and get a test if they are symptomatic.

Doctor wearing latex gloves holds a covid-19 antigen test.
The test rules for close contacts in the Northern Territory have changed.(Delivered by: Marco Verch / Fickr)

What has changed for close contacts?

The territory will adopt the new national definition of close contact, which means that a close contact will now be classified as a person who has spent four hours or more with a confirmed case in a household or household-like setting.

Vaccinated close contacts should only be quarantined for seven days, although unvaccinated close contacts should still spend 14 days in isolation.

Symptomatically close contacts should have a PCR test for the first three days and then do a rapid antigen test on day six.

Asymptomatic contacts should perform a RAT test, not a PCR test, for the first three days and then again on day six.

Contacts must use the G2G Now app to prove they follow the rules.

A person who is a confirmed positive COVID-19 case must isolate themselves for seven days and return a negative PCR test on day six to leave the isolation.

If they give a positive result, they will have to remain in isolation for another seven days.

A Qantas plane on the tarmac at Darwin International Airport.
All interstate travelers arriving in the Northern Territory must have a PCR test 72 hours prior to arrival. (ABC News: Che Chorley)

Has anything changed for interstate arrivals?

None.

All interstate travelers to the Northern Territory are treated equally, no matter where they come from.

Unvaccinated visitors cannot enter the Northern Territory, and returning unvaccinated territories must have a 14-day mandatory quarantine at their own expense.

New arrivals must do a PCR test within 72 hours before entering the territory, and show proof of a negative test and an NT border entry form upon entry.

Travelers must also take a RAT test on days three and six after crossing the border.

They should also download the G2G Now app and check in when prompted.

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