The Central Australian town of Alice Springs and nearby First Nations communities will enter a snap three-day lockdown due to a COVID-19 scare at its airport.
The Northern Territory recorded no new positive cases of the virus in the past 24 hours, but recent information given to Chief Minister Michael Gunner forced his hand.
Mr Gunner was told that a man from the Tanami mine site spent almost seven hours at Alice Springs airport on Friday, June 25. The man returned to Adelaide the next day and tested negative for COVID, but he since developed symptoms while isolating and four of his household contacts tested positive.
"I know it is sudden and shocking. I am sorry about that. But we cannot afford to wait a minute longer," he said.
"We believe that he is highly infectious. It is unlikely that he was highly infectious during his time at Alice Springs airport. But, like all other decisions, we will not take a punt on this."
Mr Gunner urged anyone who was in attendance at the airport from 9am-4pm Friday 25th of June to stay put at home and wait for advice from the government.
Those in the departure area are considered close contacts and must isolate, while people in the opposite side of the building are considered casual contacts.
People who were in the vicinity of the carpark are considered low-risk but advised to monitor for symptoms.
The 72-hour lockdown takes effect from 1pm local time Wednesday. It applies to everyone within the Alice Springs town council boundaries, which includes town camps.
The government is working closely with First Nations services in the town including the Central Land Council and the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress to ensure adequate messaging is getting out to Aboriginal people.
The Chief Minister reiterated for everyone affected not to panic and assured that everyone will still be able to access all the services they need.
Residents from remote communities who are currently in Alice Springs have been advised to stay put and not return home.
Alice Springs residents may only leave their homes for five reasons: for medical treatment including COVID-19 testing and vaccination, for essential goods and services like groceries, for essential work, for one hour of exercise per day with one other person and to provide care and support to a family member (within a 5km radius) who cannot support themselves.
Mask wearing is mandatory.
Mr Gunner said the government is reviewing CCTV footage of the airport and will provide more information later today.
The Northern Territory COVID-19 hotline is 1800 490 484 while the Lockdown advice hotline is 1800 193 111.