Three states will learn within hours if their lockdowns will be lifted as Australia battles COVID outbreaks on multiple fronts and national cabinet meets to consider cuts to international arrivals.
Queensland and Western Australia both welcomed “encouraging” testing results on Thursday, with those two states pinning hopes on being let loose for the weekend.
However, Darwin’s chances of breaking free have been dealt a blow after an infected person ignored isolation rules to visit a supermarket, leading the Norther Territory’s Chief Minister to foreshadow a possible extension to the lockdown.
Meanwhile, NSW is bracing for its latest COVID numbers on Friday after 24 cases in the previous reporting period.
Of the 24 cases on Thursday – which took the outbreak to 195 cases – only half were in isolation throughout their infectious period, leading to further a spike in potential exposure sites.
As the halfway mark of the greater Sydney lockdown approaches, Premier Gladys Berejiklian renewed her plea for people to stay home as much as possible after an alarming trend of people being out and about while infectious.
“People going about their business, shopping and interacting with others is causing the virus to continue to circulate,” she said.
“If we want the lockdown to succeed, all of us to have minimise our movements, minimise our interaction with others.”
National cabinet will meet on Friday and expected to discuss the premiers’ repeated calls for overseas arrivals to be reduced to ease pressure on hotel quarantine.
Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia have are all pushing for a drastic cut to the weekly cap but the federal government has so far resisted the idea.
The Australian is also reporting Prime Minister Scott Morrison will seek a deal at national cabinet to secure agreement from the states on vaccination thresholds to eliminate lockdowns and domestic and international travel exemptions for vaccinated Australians.
According to the newspaper, the PM said the move was important to “sketch out the benefits of having a vaccinated population and consider the ‘magic numbers’ at which vaccine thresholds could be set”.
NT ‘lie’ could extend lockdown
The Northern Territory could remain in lockdown beyond Friday after an infected miner breached his isolation order and allegedly lied to authorities.
Darwin and Alice Springs were locked down after workers at Newmont’s Granites Mine, in the Tanami Desert, were diagnosed with COVID-19 this week.
Authorities had hoped to lift the stay-at-home order on Friday until they found out a Darwin man in his 50s had misreported his movements after testing positive to the virus.
He initially said he was in the community only for 36 hours before isolating at home while waiting to be moved to the quarantine hub at nearby Howard Springs.
But late on Thursday, it was revealed the man visited a supermarket in Darwin hours after he was ordered to stay at home.
“I am extremely unhappy with this turn of events. Don’t lie to authorities. The best way through coronavirus is to be absolutely honest,” a furious Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.
“This is not where I want to be tonight. He broke the law and he lied about it.”
Authorities are working to contact trace anyone who visited the Stuart Park Corner Store between 12.18-12.35pm on Sunday.
The NT outbreak started last weekend when a young Victorian man, who travelled to the Granites Mine via a Brisbane quarantine hotel, tested positive for the virus.
More than 700 workers were immediately ordered to isolate at the mine as authorities scrambled to track about 800 more who had flown to their homes around Australia after the infected miner arrived.
It’s understood 17 cases are linked to the outbreak.
‘Amazingly encouraging’ signs in WA
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan will announce on Friday if the four-day lockdown in the Perth and the Peel regions will end as scheduled.
The restriction will be enforced until at least 12.01am Saturday but could be extended depending on Friday’s latest case numbers.
No new cases were reported on Thursday from about 15,800 tests – a result Mr McGowan said was “amazingly encouraging”.
Temporary restrictions, including limits on gatherings and venue capacities, will be enforced if the lockdown is lifted.
The outbreak has been traced to a 51-year-old physiotherapist who recently returned to WA from NSW, where she contracted the Delta variant.
Infections were subsequently detected in two men in their 20s and 30s and a 32-year-old woman who attended various venues throughout Perth’s northern suburbs.
Of 360 close contacts identified to date, 295 have so far tested negative, as have 1173 out of 2503 casual contacts.
The lockdown in Perth and Peel is the third in five months.
Qld ‘not out of the woods yet’
A decision on whether Queensland’s lockdown will be extended is expected on Friday as the state works to gain control over five unrelated COVID incidents.
Five community cases had been confirmed in the lockdown period by Thursday, and authorities warned the state is “not out of the woods yet”.
Restrictions in Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan City, Moreton Bay, Redlands, Sunshine Coast, Noosa, Somerset, Lockyer Valley, the Scenic Rim, the Gold Coast, Townsville, Magnetic Island and nearby Palm Island are due to lift at 6pm.
There were two cases on Thursday, from more than 28,000 tests – an “encouraging” sign the state was getting on top of the virus spreading.
The state is also managing a cluster linked to a Portuguese club, a Qatar Airways worker believed to be infected at the airport, one of the NT miners and potential contacts of a Virgin crew member onboard several flights while having the virus.
Chief health officer Jeannette Young was confident about each of the state’s COVID outbreaks individually, but said managing all of them simultaneously “is a lot”.