The Gunner Government has reduced the amount of days some people have to spend in supervised mandatory COVID-19 quarantine, while the chief medical officer Dr Hugh Heggie has said he would not declare Brisbane a hotspot “at this stage”.
In the COVID-19 Directions (No. 49) 2020 released on Monday, Dr Heggie declared that if people had been in a hotspot but had then gone outside of it before coming to the NT, the time outside the hotspot we be taken off time spent in NT quarantine. The new requirements came into effect at noon on Monday.
In his directions, Dr Heggie gave the following example: “A person who leaves a COVID-19 hotspot on 1 September 2020 and enters the Territory at 23:00 (11 pm) on 4 September 2020 must remain in quarantine until 12:00 (noon) on 15 September 2020.”
While this information is on the Territory Government’s official COVID-19 website, it is in Dr Heggie’s directions, that read like legislation, under a CHO Directions tab at the top of the site, but it is not included in the general, easy-to-read part of the website, which was last updated on Friday.
About 3:20pm the government issued a press release with the information. It did not say if the government would reduce the $2,500 quarantine fee on a pro-rate basis for less days served.
And the change means anyone under 18 who is unaccompanied can no longer quarantine at home and must do mandatory supervised quarantine and a parent or responsible adult must quarantine with them. It did not say how much this would cost.
A present, this quarantine loophole seemingly could only be used by people who had been in Sydney but had gone into other parts of NSW, then flown to the NT. Or for people from Sydney who go to the ACT. Sydney and all of Victoria are the only NT declared hotspots.
But people from those hotspot areas could not travel into Queensland to the NT as that state will not allow anyone in who has been in a hotspot in the previous 14 days. South Australia basically does not allow anyone from Victoria except for border communities and some “essential travel”. And people from NSW are not allowed more than 50km into the state. Tasmania and Western Australia are closed to everyone. The ACT allow people from Sydney but not from Victoria.
On June 11, fines for not adhering to the 1.5 metre social distancing rule were quietly scrapped in the same way just before a mass gathering in Darwin for the Black Lives Matter cause. The Health Department did not say anything on the record at the time but a source within Health said it could have been a “catching up” measure from the easing of restrictions to stage three that came in on June 5.
Brisbane not to be declared a hotspot “at this stage” despite it being worse than before
Meanwhile, the NT News has reported that an un-named NT Health Department spokeswoman said Dr Heggie would not declare Brisbane a hotspot “at this stage”.
This is despite nine new COVID-19 cases being announced on Saturday, all related to a staff member at Brisbane Youth Detention Centre in Wacol in the city’s southeastern suburbs. There has since been another confirmed case, a relative of one of the nine.
The Queensland Health Department has issued a list of 13 potential hotspot locations across Brisbane with dates ranging from August 9 to 21, and advising anyone who had been at those spots at the listed times to monitor for symptoms.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told the ABC the entire Greater Brisbane area was now considered “at risk”.
This is in stark contrast to Dr Heggie’s surprise hotspot declaration of Brisbane, Ipswich and Logan on the evening of Friday, July 31, which came into effect at midnight that night. It gave only five hours notice for Territorians to return and forced holidaying Queenslanders into quarantine at a cost of $2,500.
That followed Queensland recording one coronavirus case but at the time Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the areas presented an “unacceptably high” health risk.
“While the numbers in Brisbane are still low, the Chief Health Officer has considered the data and advised that the risk of spread in these areas is unacceptably high,” Mr Gunner said at the time.
However on August 7, the declaration was revoked and people in NT quarantine from Queensland were released immediately.
“I closely monitor the daily data, review jurisdictional and modelling reports and the current epidemiology of COVID-19 in these Geographical Areas of Risks,” Dr Heggie told ABC at the time.
The national cabinet, of which Mr Gunner is a member, told state and federal chief medical officers to develop a national definition of a coronavirus hotspot within a fortnight, the Financial Review reported, but it would still not be binding on a jurisdiction deciding on whether to close its borders.