Border Push as Northern Territory Declared COVID-19 Free

By AAP
May 21, 2020 Updated: May 21, 2020

There are no active cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Territory after the remaining patient was cleared of the virus.

The Northern Territory is facing calls to open its borders or at least set a date for doing so as it was declared free of the (Chinese Communist Party) CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

An Australian Defence Force member who contracted COVID-19 with several colleagues while on deployment in the Middle East had been the only remaining patient, but was cleared overnight.

It has been more than six weeks since there was a locally diagnosed case, and there has been no deaths or community transmission, with all of the Territory’s 30 COVID-19 cases connected to interstate or overseas travel.

The NT recorded its first case 78 days ago on March 4.

However, the NT government is resisting pressure from the Country Liberal opposition and industry to commit to a date to reopen borders, as it has in easing other COVID-19 restrictions.

The loss of tourists is having a damaging effect on an already sluggish NT economy, which is more visible now restaurants and cafes have reopened and there are only locals to fill seats.

Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro said holding “a hard line” on borders did not give business confidence.

“Businesses are really making some very extraordinary and difficult decisions, the next stage is critical to them being able to plan ahead on what’s to come,” she told reporters.

Chamber of Commerce NT chief executive Greg Ireland understood the government’s caution, but said businesses should be able to map out their futures.

He said if any state or overseas jurisdiction was free of the virus, then people from those regions should be allowed in as long as prevention measures were taken.

“There are methodologies we can adopt … Potentially the COVIDSafe app as a compulsory requirement, temperature testing and monitoring for a few days,” he told Mix Radio.

“There is a flow-on effect from tourism to the rest of the community—people utilise restaurants, pubs and other activities and that in turn creates a service industry.

“The extended time away from family and friends is also difficult.”

NT Tourism Rebound Taskforce Chair Michael Bridge would like borders re-opened by August 1.

He said industry needed a date, as it could not begin operating without first generating demand.

About 69 percent of NT tourism came from interstate or overseas, he said.

Health Minister Natasha Fyles said she was aware of the economic and business impact of COVID-19, but added “we have to put health and safety and lives of Territorians first.”

The government wanted to know how the virus behaved in southern states after they eased their harsher restrictions, as that had led to second waves overseas, Fyles said.

“Clinical professionals were advising me in March … we could see a catastrophic impact with hundreds of ICU beds needed and potentially hundreds of deaths—very scary figures to be presented with.”

By Greg Roberts