Deputy chief health officer Dr Charles Pain has said authorities cannot exclude someone in Alice Springs having COVID-19, after positive virus test results in wastewater in two Alice Springs catchments, as well as in Barunga and Beswick south of Katherine.
Dr Pain gave a press conference about 1pm Saturday with Health Minister Natasha Fyles, who said the positive results in the Gillen and Northside catchments could not be explained.
Ms Fyles also detailed one new confirmed case of COVID-19 recorded in the 24-hours to midnight, a man in his 20s who lived in the on-again, off-again, CHO enforced locked down “risk zone” in Katherine East.
“What I can say is we do have around 375 people in Alice Springs undertaking home quarantine, so it could be someone who has the virus, and the testing regime hasn’t picked that up yet,” she said.
Ms Fyles said there would no COVID-19 restrictions for Alice Springs.
But Dr Pain said a positive case in the town could not be ruled out and they were also working on the assumption there were people with the virus in Barunga and Beswick.
“So as the minister has said, we must be very cautious over the next 24, 48 hours,” he said.
“We are expecting more wastewater test results to come back today. Later today. And that will help us to decide what to do next.
“Please in Alice Springs, do not be complacent, we may have a positive case in the community.”
Ms Fyles said the positive wastewater tests in Barunga and Barunga were a concerning development for health authorities.
Barunga and the nearby Manyallaluk will go a 72-hour mask mandate from 2pm, Ms Fyles said, because there were high vaccination rates there.
She said Beswick had a lower vaccination rate, so there would be a 72-hour lockout from 2pm.
Barunga is about 65km as the crow flies southwest of Katherine, while Beswick is about 30km southwest of Barunga.
Dr Pain said Beswick had a double vaccination rate of 64 per cent (but did not specify if that was based on NT Government or Commonwealth figures) and was not adequate for health authorities to feel comfortable not putting in restrictions.
Ms Fyles said there were also positive wastewater tests in parts of Katherine, in the Martin Terrace, Stuart Hwy, and Bicentennial Rd areas, as well as Binjari, Rockhole and Warlpiri camps.
Dr Pain said that was expected as people from the town came out of quarantine in Howard Springs.
“When we’ve had an outbreak, and we know people are returning it becomes more difficult to interpret (positive wastewater results), so we have to be very careful how we interpret it,” he said.
“But as you can see from our actions over the last few days to investigate and test very closely in that (Katherine East) catchment, indicates we were expecting to see actual case, and in fact that is what we found. We found eight cases in those catchments.
“It’s a difficult phase of our interpretation but I think when you see our response to Beswick and Barunga, you can see we are treating those as clear cases of, or likely cases in those communities, and not returns.”