COVID-19 lockdown extended as nine Aboriginal Northern Territorians test positive

The nine new cases are direct family of Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, who has urged the Aboriginal community to "get tested and get vaccinated".

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner. Source: AAP

The Northern Territory is on high alert after recording nine new positive cases of COVID-19 overnight.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner has confirmed all cases are Aboriginal people, causing great concern for Indigenous communities in the Territory. 

One of the cases is a 65-year-old woman who has been admitted to Royal Darwin Hospital.  

Other cases include a 71-year-old man, and two five-year-old twins, who will all be sent to the Territory-run quarantine facility at Howard Springs. 

"This is obviously a serious escalation in the COVID-19 situation in the Northern Territory," Mr Gunner told reporters on Tuesday.

"The vaccine rate for Katherine overall and within vulnerable pockets is not at a level where we can consider lockout as an option," he said. 

The spike in cases has triggered a lockdown extension for Katherine and Robinson River region until at least 6pm on Monday. A mask mandate for all of the Territory has also been introduced.

On Monday, a 30-year-old woman from Robinson River, who was a household contact of a 43-year-old man from Katherine, tested positive for COVID-19. 

NT Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy revealed that the woman was her sister, and the nine new cases are her direct family. 

Senator McCarthy used the personal news to encourage the Aboriginal community in the NT to protect themselves from the virus by getting vaccinated. 

"COVID is here and this is serious. It is moving quickly. NT mob, don't be afraid and don't be shame. Get tested and get vaccinated," she said on Twitter. 

She made an urgent plea for the Aboriginal community to ignore misinformation found on social media and to get tested and vaccinated as soon as possible. 

"The negative messages by people across Australia to discourage people, First Nations people in particular, from vaccinating is completely disgraceful," she said.

Katherine Hospital and MacFarlane Primary School have been flagged as priority exposure sites, and Mr Gunner has urged parents to get children who attend the school to get tested as soon as possible. 

State authorities are yet to confirm set dates and times of exposure.

"We are in a desperate fight now to identify new cases in Katherine and I do need people to come forward and get tested," NT Deputy Chief Health Officer Charles Pain said. 

Aboriginal health providers are working with the NT government coordinating mobile COVID-19 testing, mobile vaccination clinics, contact tracing, welfare support and education on symptoms. 

"This is a coordinated effort, we are working together, we are doing everything we can for the people of Katherine," Mr Gunner said. 

The new cases bring the total active COVID-19 cluster in the Territory to 11.

The rise in case numbers has triggered Western Australian authorities to tighten its borders from 4pm on Tuesday.

The WA border has been elevated to low-risk for Territorians, which will only allow fully vaccinated travellers to enter WA. They must also undergo 14 days of quarantine and return a negative COVID-19 test. 

Published 16 November 2021 at 3:08pm, updated 16 November 2021 at 9:32pm
By Rayane Tamer
Source: SBS News