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Low-vax NT communities hit with new rules

The Northern Territory government is set to impose new health restrictions for 54 remote Aboriginal communities where less than 70 per cent of the population has had one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Anyone entering those communities from outside the NT, Darwin, Alice Springs and Katherine from November 19 must return a negative virus test 72 hours before entry.

They’ll also need to wear a mask in public areas for seven days from Monday, with testing of symptomatic residents stepped up.

The new rules were mandated after Doherty Institute modelling set a higher benchmark for remote communities and the previous 80 per cent double dose target was extended to include people aged five to 11.

It comes as a lockout of unvaccinated people in Greater Darwin is extended 24 hours until 11.59pm on Tuesday amid the NT’s first community outbreak.

No new cases were recorded on Monday but health workers remain concerned after the traveller who brought the virus to the Top End confessed about the extent of her movements before she was located.

Health restrictions were imposed in Greater Darwin and Katherine, 320km to the south, late on Thursday after an unvaccinated man in his 20s contracted the virus without leaving the NT.

The diagnosis alarmed authorities when they realised the origin of his infection was potentially roaming about the territory.

Katherine was fully locked down, along with unvaccinated people in Greater Darwin, until the source was found to be the woman who had flown to the NT from Cairns.

She had also visited South Australia and Victoria before lying on her NT border entry form and spending two nights with the index case at a Darwin hotel.

The woman’s infection has since been found to be a Victorian Delta strain of the virus.

She was fined $5024 on Sunday, when the full lockdown in Katherine was eased to a lockout of unvaccinated people.

That ended at 5pm on Monday, but face masks must be worn in most public venues until Friday.

The NT cluster has three cases and all the infected people are in quarantine at the National Centre for Resilience.

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