Easing of border restrictions is coming Chief Health Officer says, but fear of outbreak remains

by | May 12, 2020 | Business, COVID-19, News | 2 comments

The Northern Territory’s Chief Health Officer says domestic border restrictions will likely be eased in the coming months, but he admitted feeling “terrified” about a possible new COVID-19 outbreak.

“We have to be absolutely vigilant about this but in the coming months I think we may actually see domestic border controls being eased,” Chief Health Officer Dr Hugh Heggie said.

Border restrictions with states like Western Australia and South Australia would be looked at first, Dr Heggie added.

“It’s early days but it would seem, if you look at the numbers of cases in the western half of Australia, it is true that we’re seeing hardly any new numbers,” he said.

Dr Heggie acknowledged that easing border restrictions is important for the Territory’s economy and tourism.

The Gunner Government have come under pressure from the business community to start looking at lifting border restrictions to help get the lagging NT economy started again.

On Friday, nearly a thousand Territory business owners who have signed up for the safety checklist program will be given the greenlight to re-open, according to Health Minister Natasha Fyles.

However, Dr Heggie said he is “personally terrified” about a potential COVID-19 outbreak once restrictions start to ease across the Territory.

“I’m terrified because if we do have an outbreak here we need to be prepared for it,” he said.

“We need to be very anxious – be aware,” Dr Heggie said. “We talked about how fortunate we are, but we are so vulnerable. Border restrictions are one of the main tools that the Territory and Australia has … We need to be aware that this virus is potentially mild but could be very serious.” 

He urged Territorians to cooperate and do their part by following COVID-19 prevention measures.

“I don’t want to see the dreadful harm that is done elsewhere in the world, the lives lost and the harm done,” he said.

Dr Heggie also pointed to new outbreaks in countries that had positive results early on, as concerning. He cited South Korea’s recent new outbreak at nightclubs and bars, despite people were wearing masks.

“As we go to the new normal, we all need to go continue these processes and activities [good hygiene and social distancing]. If there is a vaccine, we don’t know if people have had this disease before, might get it again,” he said.

Dr Heggie reminded Territorians not to go overboard and that it’s not time to do a pub crawl.

“Stay in your social network. Go out. Go and enjoy the national parks, the business premises, have a meal and a drink. But do it safely and within that network bubble,” he said.

There are still two active case of COVID-19 in the NT in treatment, while over 5,500 people have been tested as of yesterday.

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