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NT Health Minister flags coronavirus border restrictions may stay in place for 'years'

ABC Health logo ABC Health 31/07/2020 By Lauren Roberts
a person wearing a blue shirt: Ms Fyles warned Territorians against unnecessary interstate travel. (ABC News: Michael Franchi) © Provided by ABC Health Ms Fyles warned Territorians against unnecessary interstate travel. (ABC News: Michael Franchi)

NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles has warned the Territory's strict border restrictions could be in place for "possibly years"

Anyone who enters the NT from a coronavirus hotspot — which includes Port Stephens, the Eurobodalla Shire, Victoria and Greater Sydney — must undergo two weeks of supervised quarantine upon their arrival at a personal cost of $2,500.

Ms Fyles said that in the two weeks since the NT reopened its borders, nearly 19,000 people have arrived in the Territory — an average of 1,357 people every day.

Ms Fyles said nearly 500 people were currently in mandatory quarantine in the NT: 400 in a former workers' village outside Darwin and 100 in Alice Springs.

The NT Election is scheduled for August 22, and the Territory is now in a caretaker period, which means the Government cannot make major policy decisions or enter into major contracts.

But Ms Fyles said NT Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie was monitoring the situation in Queensland and would be able to declare a new hotspot "at any time".

"If we need to add further hotspots for people to quarantine coming into the Northern Territory we will do so," Ms Fyles said.

"We're planning for this virus, or the risk of this virus to be in the Territory for at least another 12 months."

'There will be more hotspots added'

Ms Fyles warned Territorians against unnecessary interstate travel and said the NT's border restrictions could extend into the future, "possibly years".

"This is a reminder that coronavirus has not passed, is not passing," she said.

"I predict there will be more hotspots added where and when that will be, I don't know."

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Since reopening borders on July 17, Ms Fyles said there had been an increase in testing, with more than 2,500 COVID-19 tests completed in the Territory this week alone.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the NT was carrying out about 400-500 tests a week, Ms Fyles said.

"We still have one diagnosed case in the Northern Territory, and that person remains in the care of the Top End Health Service and we wish them a speedy recovery."

Two arrested, seven more in isolation

To date, two people have been arrested for "falsely" declaring they had not been in a designated coronavirus hotspot upon their arrival in the NT.

"We have seen some people feel like they're above the law, but they've been caught," Ms Fyles said.

Northern Territory Police today launched a separate investigation into a suspected border control breach near Alice Springs.

In a statement, police said three men aged 26, 27 and 29, and a 28-year-old female travelled into the NT by road from Queensland on Monday, July 27.

Officers started investigating the group's previous movements after receiving a tip-off which indicated the men had travelled from a declared COVID-19 hotspot in the past two weeks.

All four people were found in Alice Springs and are now in isolation. Three others who had contact with the group in Alice Springs are also in isolation, and all seven have been tested for COVID-19.

Ms Fyles today announced the Government had created 100 new roles for 100 additional public health and environmental health officers, who would work with police at Territory airports and borders to ensure compliance with COVID-19 health measures.

To date, 31,473 compliance checks have now been completed and 146 fines issued.

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