The Northern Territory has two new COVID-19 cases, one an arrival on a repatriation flight from South Africa where the new and heavily mutated Omicron variant has been detected.
Authorities as yet have no genomic sequencing in relation to the passenger’s infection strain, Health Minister Natasha Fyles says.
However the person has been in supervised quarantine at the national Howard Springs facility, south of Darwin, since arriving, she told reporters on Saturday.
“So there is a very low risk to the community and we wish that person well,” Ms Fyles said.
The Omicron variant, designated as being “of concern” by the World Health Organisation, has been detected in South Africa, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium.
It has double the number of mutations as the Delta variant that sparked a third wave of outbreaks and lockdowns in Australia this year.
NT health chief Dr Charles Pain says he expects the sequencing test results for the South African case to be processed by Monday.
The passenger arrived in Darwin on Thursday and his positive virus result was confirmed on Friday evening.
The Northern Territory’s other infection was locally acquired and is of a 50-year-old man from Katherine who is a household contact of an existing case.
He has also been housed at Howard Springs during his entire infectious period and is considered a non-risk.
Katherine lockdown eased
The Katherine cluster now numbers 53 cases in total, Ms Fyle says. However all outstanding test results for the outbreak have come back negative as of Saturday.
As a result, Katherine moved from lockdown to lockout status at midday local time.
“So anyone that is fully vaccinated in the region is now free to go about their daily business,” Ms Fyles said.
“They will need to wear a mask and … please make sure to check in when you are out and about.”
Unvaccinated residents remain subject to lockdown orders until December 7, with the community currently 78 per cent fully immunised.
Meanwhile, a man has been caught at a bar in Darwin after breaking out of quarantine at Howard Springs on day 13 of his isolation period.
Police say the 27-year-old was seen scaling the fence before he was picked up by a white ute on Friday night.
Quarantine escapee nabbed in bar
He was later caught at a licensed venue on Mitchell St, Darwin, about midnight.
Police took the man back to the quarantine facility, where he was tested for COVID-19 and returned a negative result.
Officers are now probing the incident, including tracking down the people who were involving in picking the man up outside the camp.
Ms Fyles said she was “extremely disappointed” by the episode and that practices at Howard Springs would also be reviewed.
Some 95 per cent of Territorians have now received a first vaccine dose while 86 per cent are fully immunised.