Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles has confirmed the first case of the new “Omicron” COVID-19 variant in the Territory.
The Australian man, who had flown from Johannesburg to Darwin on a repatriation flight, tested positive to COVID-19 on Saturday. Genomic sequencing has since revealed that he is infected with the “Omicron” variant, making him the first case of this variant in the Territory.
“But the Territory community should be reassured the gentleman went straight to Howard Springs, the Centre for National Resilience,” Fyles said at a press conference on Monday. “He is in quarantine there. He’ll be cared for appropriately.”
She also explained that the Howard Springs facility is broken up into different zones, so international repatriations don’t interact with any of the local community members who might be there as close contacts.
Acting Chief Health Officer Charles Pain said he’s “not overly concerned” about the first “Omicron” case, adding that the Territory has dealt with variants all the way through the pandemic and managed them the same way.
“In many senses, it’s business as usual,” he said. “We have a highly functioning quarantine facility there.”
This is the third case of the “Omicron” variant detected in Australia to date, the other two appearing in New South Wales.
NT Government Pledges $10 million to Police, Fire and Emergency Services
Meanwhile, Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services (NTPFES) will receive $10 million (US$7.1 million) from the Northern Territory Government to carry on their work in response to COVID-19.
In a media release on Saturday, Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services, Nicole Manison said the one-off payment is in recognition of the continued service and dedication from NTPEFS members in response to COVID-19 in the Territory.
“Our police, fire and emergency services have worked tirelessly on the frontline throughout the pandemic, and once again, we are seeing their dedication on the ground in Katherine and surrounding communities impacted by the current outbreak,” she said.
This payment comes as an extension of the $20 million (US$14.2 million) investment made in 2020 to recruit additional police, support staff, and resources to protect NT borders and support COVID-19 operations.
That funding saw the hiring of 66 additional frontline constables to assist with tasks brought on by COVID-19, 30 Aboriginal liaison officers to ensure stronger relationships between police and Indigenous communities, 10 Aboriginal community police officers, and 25 support staff involved in administrative, college and welfare support.
“They have played a crucial role in keeping the community safe from COVID-19, which is why we are investing an additional $10 million to have boots on the ground and ready to respond where needed,” Manison said.
The new funding will support those roles and assist the ongoing operation of the Emergency Operations Centre, border checkpoints, and other activities in supporting the COVID-19 response.
It has also enabled the appointment of a dedicated Assistant Commissioner, who will lead the delivery of the COVID-19 Safe Freedoms Roadmap.
The Northern Territory Police Association welcomed the announcement of the $10 million boost, saying police were feeling the strain of working amidst the pandemic and that there had been continuous calls for funding.
“We welcome the additional funding and want to acknowledge all members who are working extremely hard pulling long hours in trying circumstances to keep the community safe,” Association president Paul McCue said.
With the deployment of staff to COVID-19 duties in Katherine, Robinson River, Binjari and Rockhole. he said that police rosters all across the Territory have been stretched.
“This funding will help the response together with the additional 28 police Constables who graduated from the Police College last night,” he said.