covid-19 /

Australian Territory Placed Under ‘Hard Lockdown’ After Outbreak Among Indigenous Residents

Residents can only leave their homes for medical treatment, an emergency, or if required by law

Australia placed part of its Northern Territory under an extreme lockdown after a sudden outbreak of COVID-19 cases was detected over the weekend.

The state government said at least nine new cases were detected on Nov. 20 in the Binjari, a small community about 200 miles south of Darwin. 

A 78-year-old woman was being treated in Royal Darwin hospital, the government said. The other eight cases are now at the Howard Springs quarantine center.

“As you know, last night we took up urgent action to escalate our response in these communities immediately implementing a hard lockdown,” Chief Minister Michael Gunner said in a televised announcement. “That means residents of Binjari and Rockhole no longer have the five reasons to leave their homes. They can only leave for medical treatment, in an emergency, or if required by law.”

He added: “It is highly likely that more residents will be transferred to Howard Springs today either as positive cases or close contacts. We’ve already identified 38 close contacts in Binjari and that number will go up. Those 38 are being transferred now.”

“I contacted the Prime Minister last night,” Gunner said. “We’re grateful for the support of about twenty ADF personnel as well as army trucks to assist with the transfer of positive cases and close contacts and to support the community.”

Health authorities announced that five men and four women had been diagnosed in Binjari late on Saturday. It is understood the group is from several different households,” reports The Guardian. “All 10 are Indigenous Australians aged between 17 and 78 and bring the territory’s cluster to 31 cases.”

A 21-year-old, who allegedly entered the territory illegally at the end of October while infected with COVID-19, is believed to have caused the outbreak. 

Gunner urged Territory residents to get vaccinated as a preventative measure.

“It is too late for the vaccine when you’ve got COVID. It is too late when you’re in hospital struggling to breathe,” he said. “Once you catch the virus, it is too late. … We need you to get the vaccine now before you catch the virus, so you can stay safe, stay healthy, stay alive.”

In addition to barring residents from leaving their homes, the government announced mask mandates for towns in the western part of the state.

Unvaccinated travelers will not be allowed to enter the state as of Nov. 22. Only Territorians returning to the area and essential workers will be granted exceptions provided they are coming from “green zones” where the virus is not present.

Vaccinated travelers who want to enter NT will be subject to a week-long, home quarantine. Before being permitted to enter, they will have to present a rapid antigen test and return a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their arrival. They will then be required to test five, eight and 14 days after their quarantine and will be barred from certain locations.

Currently, the state’s home quarantine requirement is scheduled to end on Dec. 20.

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