UPDATED: The Territory’s vaccine mandate for some workers will be lifted next week, when the government’s latest public health emergency officially ends, Chief Minister Natasha Fyles has announced, but it remains unclear what particular positions will be affected.
“We will end the public health emergency; the vaccine mandate will also end,” Ms Fyles said at a press conference on Thursday morning.
“From June 16th, we will transition from a state of public health emergency to living with COVID as it becomes endemic in the community.”
However, the Fyles Government last month passed legislation that will give the Chief Health Officer extraordinary powers for the next two years to continue to issue directions, mandate masks or vaccines for “high-risk places” and conduct other activities, without the need for a public health emergency. The NT Police will execute and enforce those orders as they arise.
Ms Fyles also said as of June 30, the Howard Springs COVID-19 quarantine facility will be shut down as will the Marrara vaccination clinic.
“Living with COVID means we’re now in a place where we can revoke many of the CHO directions such as exclusion zones, lock in areas, safety measures for businesses, quarantine workers and facilitate major events crowd limits,” she said.
That means people who were prevented from working in a pub if they weren’t triple vaccinated, will now be permitted to work.
But it remains unclear if all workers, including those in hospitals, prisons and aged-care clinics will still be required to be triple vaccinated.
Ms Fyles said workplaces could bring staff back who had lost their jobs when the mandate came into place and that the government would be providing more information to businesses in the coming week, but it was also unclear what that meant for public servants who had been sacked.
“It would be up to individual agencies to work through what their workforce requirements are going forward, and whom they wish to employ,” Ms Fyles said.
The government has said 73 per cent of all Territorians over 16 are triple vaccinated.
“The declarations were always about doing everything we could to save lives,” Ms Fyles said. “I never took the decision to sign these declarations lightly, just as today’s decision was not taken lightly.”
The Opposition CLP said they welcome today’s announcement that the “draconian” vaccine mandate will be scrapped after months of pressure.
“For many Territorians and businesses this is too little, too late,” said CLP Health spokesman Bill Yan. “Small businesses, tourism, hospitality, and retail have suffered terribly under this divisive, draconian measure which was only forced onto Territorians by the Labor government because of its failed remote vaccine rollout.”
Mr Yan added that the two years extension of extraordinary powers for the CHO need to be repealed.
“We don’t support extraordinary powers, including search and seize powers without a warrant, handed to an unelected official for the next two years,” he said.
“Territorians do not need the dark cloud of COVID hanging over their heads for the next two years, with the possibility of having mandates and other restrictions imposed upon them, at any time.”