Four new cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in the NT, including two toddlers, the NT Government has confirmed.
All the four cases are passengers of the repatriation flight carrying 183 Australians that landed in Darwin on Tuesday from New Delhi, India, that has second-highest number of infections globally. Questions have also been raised about the accuracy of India’s COVID-19 testing, following the latest detections.
Two toddlers aged 3-years-old, a 31-year-old male, and an 82-year-old female were the recent COVID-19 positives in the NT.
The four new cases come after the government confirmed a woman in her 30s was diagnosed yesterday, who was on the same flight. It’s unclear if the infected children are her children.
The NT Government said all five cases are under mandatory quarantine at the Howard Springs facility.
All patients are well and remain under the medical care of Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AUSMAT), the government said in a statement.
The severity of the new cases – including if those infected have shown symptoms – was not released.
‘No threat to the community’: Notaras
On Wednesday, a 31-year-old female passenger from the New Delhi repatriation flights had also tested positive for COVID-19.
National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre chief executive Len Notaras said the female is asymptomatic and will remain in the “hot facility” where a “higher level” of quarantine is upheld.
“There is no threat to the community at the centre at the present time and the meticulous infection control standards that are taken out there will ensure people remain safe, and indeed the community remains safe, which is a priority,” Mr Notaras said.
The Department of the Chief Minister said Australians arriving in Darwin from overseas are a known higher risk group.
“As a result, it is expected that between five and 10 per cent of all passengers could test positive for COVID-19,” the government said in a statement.
To date, the total number of cases recorded in the Northern Territory is 39. All cases have been related to international or interstate travel, with no cases of community transmission, the statement said.
The world’s second-most populous country also has the second-highest number of infections after the United States, which has around 8.1 million.
India’s total coronavirus infections stood at 7.91 million on Monday, having risen by 45,148 cases in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed.
India COVID-19 tests have ‘reduced accuracy’, medical experts say
Mr Notaras said all the passengers have been screened ahead of the flight to Darwin and has returned a negative result. However, it was not revealed what type of COVID-19 tests were conducted on the passengers from India.
The head of a top diagnostic firm in India has estimated that around 60 per cent of all coronavirus tests in India are made through “fast but less accurate” rapid antigen tests. He warned that such high use could misrepresent the actual spread of the infection.
Antigen devices return results in about 15 minutes compared with several hours for the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method, a laboratory-based process which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls the “gold standard” for COVID-19 detection.
“As a consequence of the reduced accuracy, India’s high use of antigen tests compared with a global use of around 10 per cent, risked underestimating the spread of coronavirus,” the founder of Mumbai-based Thyrocare Technologies Arokiaswamy Velumani told Reuters.
“It’s a wrong scale used to assess,” he said.