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NT lockdown end looms amid mystery COVID

A Northern Territory town will learn if its lockdown will be lifted as authorities race to find the mysterious source of the Top End’s first outbreak of COVID-19 in the community.

The latest case in the three-person cluster is a partially vaccinated 21-year-old woman who arrived in Darwin from Queensland on October 29.

She is a close contact of the index case, an unvaccinated man in his 20s who worked at RAAF Tindal, near the town of Katherine.

But health authorities say she is unlikely to be source of the outbreak.

“It seems likely there is another case that these two acquired it from,” Deputy Chief Health Officer Charles Pain said.

“We’re still not clear about that and … we still have this mystery as to the origin.”

The woman spent last weekend with the index case at the Mantra Hotel in Darwin after she arrived from Cairns.

The man also visited Monsoons pub and nightclub before testing positive for the virus on Thursday in Katherine, 320km south of Darwin.

The diagnosis plunged Katherine into a three-day lockdown and Greater Darwin into a lockout, with only vaccinated people permitted to move freely about the community.

Restrictions are expected to end at midnight on Sunday, but Chief Minister Michael Gunner has warned they could be extended if the situation deteriorates.

Contact tracing teams have identified 100 close contacts, including the man’s housemate who tested positive for the virus on Friday.

All three infected people are now in quarantine at the National Centre for Resilience, as health workers race to track down 20 outstanding contacts.

Mr Gunner said the outbreak was at a critical stage and test results from 80 close contacts who are isolating would help provide answers.

“We haven’t yet seen any spread beyond the very close contacts and that’s good news, but there are still too many unknowns,” he said.

More exposure sites and close contacts related to the woman’s movements are expected to be identified.

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