The streets of Darwin and Alice Springs have a sense of normality again with cafes and restaurants allowed to serve dine-in customers but the Northern Territory is unlikely to open its borders in the short term.
The Northern Territory lifted a range of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on Friday allowing businesses to reopen that had been shut for 53 days.
The lockdown restrictions in the Northern Territory have been less onerous than in the rest of the nation, especially in the eastern states, with Territorians freer to move about and see other people since businesses such as restaurants and gyms were shut down on March 23.
Now the Territory has relaxed it’s restrictions more than anyone else, which Health Minister Natasha Fyles said on Monday, was about “accepting we couldn’t keep living the way we were, we needed to balance that risk … get back out and have some type of normal life.
The Territory has had 30 COVID-19 cases but no community transmission or deaths and only two active cases, involving defence force members who returned to Darwin from the Middle East on May 1.
It is hoped that resources can now be free to be thrown at the economic crisis.
The reason why the Territory was able to open up at the weekend—with further easing to come on June 5 such as allowing people to visits a bar without having a meal and the re-start of contact sports—was because of the closed borders, Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.
“We want Territorians to have people visit and get more money going through the economy.
“Community transmission is probably the most important rate down south, while there is that random community transmission happening down south how could I have confidence in letting people in?
“Unfortunately the Territory economy is highly reliant on southerners for many reasons … but you can’t do what we’ve done and then let it all go.”
About 3000 people went back to work on Friday, according to the Northern Territory Government.
The Northern Territory Government has committed more than $100 million to stimulus packages—on top of federal support—to deal with the economic crisis including a generous home improvement scheme giving homeowners who spend $2,000 on renovations up to $6,000 when they use a local tradie.
Fyles said many health professionals were very anxious at the prospect of the Northern Territory reopening it’s society to what is being described as a “new normal” and their advice had to be respected.
She said people should realise life was not back to an “old normal,” social distancing must still be practised and they should download the COVIDSafe app to better track and trace virus outbreaks.
By Greg Roberts