Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker has ordered criminals to wear masks during lockdown or face a $5000 fine for breaching the Chief Health Officer’s orders.
Mr Chalker’s comments came during a press briefing this morning to update Territorians on the current 72-hour lockdown of the Greater Darwin and Katherine areas.
Health authorities said there have been no new cases of COVID-19 detected overnight, with 1846 tests completed yesterday, but they are still contact tracing to determine close contacts of the man in Katherine who sparked the snap lockdown.
The man, an American national, who had completed hotel quarantine in Sydney before flying to Darwin via Canberra last Thursday and spent a couple days in Darwin before going to Katherine was re-tested yesterday and found to have been more infectious, increasing health authorities’ concerns about the potential for other infections in Katherine.
The man has also reportedly refused to tell health authorities if he has been vaccinated. He reportedly came to the area for “legitimate work purposes”, although it has not been disclosed what that is at this point.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the government is working to track the virus and the 99 close contacts of the man and it continues to be a “waiting game” to see if other cases pop up.
Mr Chalker used the opportunity to speak at the press conference to order criminals to wear masks.
He said he had confirmed that four alleged offenders who reportedly broke into PeeWee’s at the Point restaurant overnight have been slugged with a $5000 fine each for not wearing masks, on top of other potential charges.
“Crime is something that unfortunately will continue,” he said.
“But my team are critically aware, we will be adding the $5,000 to any charges that we find where you’ve committed offenses and we can prove you weren’t wearing a mask during that. Now that’s not to say I’m encouraging crime to occur, but I’m free to enforcing in effect, that everyone must wear a mask when you’re out and about, that is a key priority.
“But please do not target businesses who are already under the pump because of the lockdowns that are going in place.”
Man who tested positive from Katherine won’t say if he is vaccinated and ‘we respect that’: CHO
Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie commended the man for assisting health staff with their inquiries, but Mr Gunner later said the man would not tell health officials if he had been vaccinated, forcing them to operate as though he was not vaccinated.
“He may be vaccinated but he won’t tell us,” Mr Gunner said. “I don’t know why he won’t tell us his vaccination status.”
Dr Heggie said he might be withholding that information because he is a US citizen.
“He declined to give that information and we respect that,” Dr Heggie said. “From travel overseas, what is required at the moment is that people have to have a negative test before they leave their country of departure”.
But health authorities are still unsure of where the man acquired the virus.
“It may have been on an airplane or in an airport,” Dr Heggie said.
Mr Gunner said 99 people have so far been confirmed as close contacts of the “index” case, including the friend who spent time with the man in Katherine who has tested negative, as well as a taxi driver and Uber driver.
All have been taken to Howard Springs for quarantine.
Efforts are still ongoing to track down the 10 other people who used the same Uber.
Eleven people from the Hilton hotel where the man stayed are also considered close contacts.
Of the 99 close contacts, “32 are in Howard Springs or are being transferred there, 41 are in other appropriate forms of isolation, 11 have travelled interstate and those authorities have been identified,” Mr Gunner said.
“Fifteen close contacts remain unaccounted for, and 10 of those are from Uber that we’ve just identified.”