Four new cases of COVID-19 were detected in Australia’s Northern Territory over the weekend, three of whom caught the virus while in quarantine at the Howard Springs facility on the outskirts of Darwin.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner said via a Facebook post on Sunday that all three cases, a man in his forties from Katherine, a woman in her twenties from Robinson River, and a boy under 10 also from Robinson River, are household contacts who have been in the Howard Springs facility and “were not infectious while they were in the community.”
Gunner said that these people tested positive late in their replication cycle, as a result of which it is likely they were exposed to the virus while in quarantine due to family mingling early on.
Therefore, mingling rules have been tightened for these families while still maintaining the appropriate level of support. However, this means that for certain people in the facility, their period of quarantine will need to be reset on account of these new positive cases.
NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker has given reassurance that there are strict protocols in place to ensure high-risk groups are separated while in Howard Springs, NT News reported.
“It’s important to understand that there’s zones that are clearly identifiable, we don’t cross mix different flights, they’re all quite separate and contained in their various zones, particularly in the international repat area,” he said.
He added that the CCTV in the facility allows a good line of sight to ensure people are staying where they should and that people can talk to each other across the pathways from their balconies, so compliance is very good.
Chalker also explained that the new positive cases will not bring an increased risk of cross-infection at the facility, and provided reassurance that although there are a significant number of positive cases in Howard Springs, they are all in the red zone.
“That red zone is a very, very strict zone and then obviously in the other areas where there’s close contacts we make sure they’re all cohorted to the place from which they ultimately came. There is no cross mingling of any others.”
The fourth COVID-19 case detected in the Territory over the weekend is a flight crew member who arrived from London and is also in the Howard Springs facility.
Meanwhile, the community of Lajamanu, approximately 560km southwest of Katherine, is on alert due to a COVID-19 positive wastewater reading found there on Saturday evening.
The community immediately went into lockdown and a local health team went door to door testing as many people as possible, Minister Gunner said.
On Saturday night, 71 priority COVID-19 tests were done, and authorities are aiming to have everyone in the community tested by Tuesday.
According to health staff, nobody in the Lajamanu community has reported symptoms.
The current number of active COVID-19 cases in the Northern Territory stands at 57.