Australia’s battling states are being urged to stop the border wars and adopt the Northern Territory’s ‘hotspot’ approach to controlling interstate travel.
While Qld is under fire for its strict border closures, the NT has kept its doors open but required incoming travellers to quarantine if they had been in a declared hotspot area.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner said hotspotting through the pandemic had made the NT the ‘safest place in Australia’ while enabling the territory to revive its economy.
The NT has announced it will reopen to travellers from Sydney, which had been declared a hotspot, dropping the two-week quarantine requirement from October 9.
Mr Gunner said he had been warned a million times his policies would pose health risks.
“It hasn’t happened yet. Our hotspots policy is nation-leading, and it is working,” he said.
“It is keeping the territory the safest place in Australia, while also keeping the territory open for business.”
The federal government is aiming to convince the rest of the nation to consider hotspotting, with the topic again on the agenda at next week’s national cabinet meeting.
But while cautiously welcoming the NT’s announcement, Australia’s deputy chief medical officer cautioned people to remain vigilant against the coronavirus when state and territory borders slowly reopen.
Professor Michael Kidd said the federal medical expert panel had not had input into the NT’s decision.
“I’m sure that many people around the country will be heartened to hear that some of the borders which have been closed within the country are starting to open up,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“It’s very important, though, that travel of people between jurisdictions is done in a COVID-19-safe way and that we’re not risking the transmission of COVID-19 from one jurisdiction to another.”
The federal coalition has berated the Queensland Labor government over its strict border restrictions which denied a Canberra woman to attend her father’s funeral.
But Health Minister Greg Hunt praised the South Australian Liberal government for being responsive when asked to be flexible on border issues surrounding health care.
Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews is under fire for the slow crawl out of the nation’s toughest lockdown measures but has indicated restrictions in the regions could soon be eased.
“We are poised to be able to take not just one but potentially two steps as early as next week,” he said.
Prof Kidd said the expert medical panel would provide more advice about a nationally consistent hotspot definition.
Victoria recorded 43 new coronavirus cases and nine deaths on Friday, pushing the national toll to 797.
There were 10 new cases in NSW, with one taking a cluster at a Sydney hospital to 15.
Queensland reported two new cases.
Anti-lockdown protesters are expected to gather in Melbourne on Saturday in what authorities say is an unlawful, selfish exercise that could spread coronavirus.
The Melbourne Freedom Walk is scheduled for 11am at the Tan running track on the edge of the Botanical Gardens, according to social media. There may also be protests in other locations.
A frustrated assistant commissioner of police Luke Cornelius told reporters on Friday that “if people were less selfish and a bit more grown up, we wouldn’t have to keep doing this”.
“I feel a bit like a dog returning to eat his own vomit,” he said.
“I’m sick of it.”
Mr Cornelius said significant police resources would be on hand, taking officers away from other important areas of policing.
An anti-lockdown rally was held at the Shrine of Remembrance last weekend resulting in 17 arrests and more than 160 fines being issued for breaching health directions.
Police arrested 43-year-old Tony Pecora on Thursday who is an alleged key organiser of anti-lockdown agitation.
When interviewed Pecora allegedly told officers he believes coronavirus case numbers have been highly exaggerated, and that COVID-19 is genetically engineered by world banks to kill off weak humans.
He quoted Midnight Oil, telling police if someone contracted coronavirus at one of his events “it would be better to die on your feet than live on your knees”.
He faced court on Friday accused of inciting others to protest and was given bail.
Premier Daniel Andrews pleaded with people not to take part.
“All you’re potentially doing is spreading the virus,” he said on Friday.
High school formals in the time of COVID
School formals should have tables restricted to 10 people and all dancing held outside or in well-ventilated areas, according to a set of guidelines released by the NSW Government.
Formals and graduations can take place from November 12, the day after the last HSC written exam.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell on Friday said while it was good for students to enjoy end-of-year celebrations, schools should discourage spontaneous crowding at these events.
She also said students should restrict the number of guests they bring to graduation events, and encouraged schools to create live-streams for those who cannot attend.
The guidelines suggest mingling before and after events should be avoided, private transport options considered, and that schools adhere to existing restrictions on catering.
They also ask schools to ensure events do not exceed four square metres per attendee and for students to bring their own pens for yearbook signing.
“Our students have done a fantastic job this year staying focused and working towards their final exams,” Ms Mitchell said in a statement on Friday.