Australia’s Northern Territory has put in place a lockout of unvaccinated residents after 256 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on Wednesday.
In a press conference on Thursday, Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said that the Territory-wide lockout will be effective from 1 p.m. on Thursday until 12 p.m. on Monday.
“People who are not fully vaccinated present the greatest risk of spreading the virus and are the most at risk of becoming seriously ill if they get the virus,” Gunner said.
Meanwhile, fully vaccinated Territorians may go about their lives, as usual, provided they comply with the new mask mandate.
Unvaccinated residents 16 and over must stay home, only being allowed to leave for medical treatment, essential goods and services, or to provide support to a person who cannot support themselves.
In addition, they cannot travel more than 30 km (18.4 miles) from home unless in need of medical care, which is beyond the 30km radius.
Restrictions have also tightened compared to the last statewide lockdown, as work is no longer a reason to leave home for unvaccinated Territorians.
The Territory Chief Health Officer has also determined that in the current circumstances, it is critical to restrict movement. As a result, the one hour of exercise afforded to Territorians is not considered essential for the unvaccinated residents, who will have to remain in their places of residence.
This comes after the Territory reopened its borders to fully vaccinated interstate travelers on Dec.20, after which COVID-19 case numbers have steadily increased.
Of the 256 cases recorded on Wednesday, 88 were interstate arrivals, 19 were international arrivals, 27 were via community transmission, 10 were close contacts of known cases, and 112 are still under investigation.
Gunner called Wednesday’s increase in case numbers “concerning”, saying that the community transmission rate had grown in recent days.
“Yesterday’s and today’s jump do reflect activity from Friday and Saturday night,” he said.
“While today’s case numbers can be explained—I think we all understand the importance of New Year’s Eve to many people—they are concerning.”
Gunner added that COVID-19 is often exponential, meaning one case in the community usually results in more than one person being infected and that the Territory needs to keep its case numbers steady.
There are various mitigations in place to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, the most important of which Gunner said is the testing of interstate arrivals, who are currently the source of the majority of daily case numbers in the Territory.
“We are catching those cases early,” he said. “This testing remains crucial to controlling incursions and community transmission.”
He also pointed out that the mask mandate, which has been in effect since Friday and should help stop the spread, needs to be supplemented, and the lockout of unvaccinated Territorians is this supplementation.