A day after celebrating interstate holiday-makers coming to the NT to quarantine as a “national service”, Chief Minister Michael Gunner now says the practice is “annoying”, but has also pleaded with people to stay in the Territory after quarantining.
Mr Gunner also announced on Friday that the Greater Sydney region would have its hotspot status lifted on October 9, if cases remained low.
It was revealed yesterday that Territory taxpayers are subsidising mandatory quarantine costs for interstate holiday-makers who have used the NT’s facilities before going interstate.
Mr Gunner said on Thursday the $2500 figure for mandatory quarantining was arbitrary and the actual cost was more likely $3400. On Friday, he said the government was “recalculating” the cost per quarantine person and now expects the figure to be higher. The cost to taxpayers is estimated to be millions since border restrictions were eased on July 17.
“It is getting a bit annoying and it is costing us money,” he said.
“Territorians do not want to subsidise someone’s trip to Brisbane to watch the AFL Grand Final, Territorians do not want to subsidise holidays to the Gold Coast.”
Mr Gunner said he has raised the issue with National Cabinet in hopes of “reaching an agreement” on the use of the Howard Springs facility for national purposes, but did not provide details, although it appears he is seeking some form of federal payout for housing potential coronavirus carriers.
In the meantime, Mr Gunner said he had “a message” for people looking to quarantine in the NT before heading interstate.
“You gonna take advantage of our awesome quarantine, then once you’re out, we simply ask that you stick around for a while and enjoy the rest of the Territory cause it is pretty awesome too.
“It’s the best place in the world. So please stick around and enjoy a while before you bugger off. Thank you.”
Greater Sydney area to have hotspot status lifted on October 9
Mr Gunner also announced that hotspot restriction on the Greater Sydney region would be lifted in 28 days, meaning from October 9, people from Sydney will not be forced to quarantine.
He added government would closely monitor coronavirus cases in the region in the meantime.
“If things change (and) the trend goes back up in Sydney, we will not hesitate to keep their hotspot status in place for as long as we need to,” he said.
Mr Gunner relaxed border restrictions on July 17, that led to interstate travellers flooding into the NT, now estimated at well over 65,000. He later confused Territorians on August 12, and cost the NT tourism industry money on cancelled bookings, when he told a national media outlet the NT had “hard borders” in place.
Then yesterday, Mr Gunner told ABC Radio that it was positive that people were coming into the NT to quarantine because of relaxed border restrictions that require only people from designated hotspots to quarantine.