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Lockdown in two Indigenous communities as NT records 10 more infections

NT chief minister Michael Gunner is expected to release more information on Sunday. Photo: AAP
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Two remote Indigenous communities in the NT have entered a hard lockdown overnight Saturday after nine infections were recorded.

Testing of all residents in Binjari, near Katherine, uncovered nine cases. The blanket testing was done after wastewater results detected COVID in the area.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner posted on Facebook that the decision was made late Saturday to enforce a snap lockdown in Binjari and neighbouring Rockhole.

“Binjari is within the current lockdown area for Katherine. But as a result of the number of cases and the mingling that has occurred in the community, we tonight made the decision for Binjari — and neighbouring community Rockhole — to enter into a hard lockdown,” Mr Gunner’s post said.

“This means that residents must remain in their home and within their yard and only leave for medical reasons or in case of an emergency.”

Late Saturday, it was announced five men and four women had been diagnosed in Binjari, about 330km south of Darwin, bringing the current cluster to 31 cases.

A tenth infection recorded was a woman from Robinson River, 1000km southeast of Darwin.

All are Indigenous Territorians aged between 17 and 78.

“This information has only just come in this evening and tracing and all other work is happening now,” Chief Minister Michael Gunner said via social media on Saturday.

“Significant work will continue overnight, and we will provide more detail on all the cases and any new cases tomorrow”.

The outbreak was triggered by a 21-year-old infected woman who illegally entered the NT in late October after contracting the virus in Victoria and lying on her border entry form.

Meanwhile, unvaccinated travellers will no longer be able to enter the NT from Monday, under sweeping changes to the territory’s border rules.

The only exception will be essential personnel and Territorians returning from jurisdictions where COVID is not present, called green zones.

Fully vaccinated arrivals from red zones where the virus is present will be able to quarantine at home for seven days.

But they will need to have a rapid antigen test upon arrival in the NT and return a negative PCR test within 72 hours.

They must also get re-tested five, eight and 14 days after leaving quarantine and stay in a high vaccination zone away from aged care facilities and remote communities.

The home quarantine requirement is scheduled to end on December 20 with rapid antigen testing extended to all arrivals.

-with AAP