NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner has declared Sydney a hotspot, meaning visitors to the NT from the country’s most populous city will face mandatory supervised quarantine at their own expense, but not until Friday.
Mr Gunner made the announcement at a press conference in Darwin on Wednesday morning and said it would include 30 local government areas in the city and the declaration would not be amended or extended for two weeks, after a full replication cycle of the virus.
When asked what the trigger would be to re-evaluate mandatory supervised quarantine for NSW and the ACT, chief health officer Dr Hugh Heggie said he looked at the health data with a “brains trust” team daily.
“Certainly by the end of each week we have a much better understanding,” he said. “And certainly, certainly, by the end of the 14 day cycle of the virus, we know that it’s been acquired and them maybe transmitted to others that hits the term amplification.
“And then, if that number increased, or was increasing, and I would try and predict this to get a sense of where it’s going and provide the advice on that basis.”
Sydney Airport is exempt from the hotspot ruling just as Melbourne Airport is. However people would have to drive directly from where they were staying or living in NSW to the airport without stopping in Sydney outside the airport to be exempt from the mandatory supervised quarantine .
Mr Gunner said he did not expect the Sydney supervised quarantine order to stay in place for as long as Victoria’s but would not make a prediction of when it would end.
He said the Territory had “hard” borders and would maintain “hard” borders and when the Government needed to stop travel from hotspots they would. However this is not exactly the case.
People from Sydney can still enter the NT and will only be under self-quarantine until Friday when the Gunner Government lifts its border restrictions. According to the policy, Victorians can still enter the NT but will be put into supervised quarantine for 14 days – but only after July 17.
He did not say why the the new requirements for Sydneysiders were not coming in immediately, just as the harsher requirements for Victorians were not bought in last week.
People arriving from Sydney, or who have been in Sydney in the previous 14 days will be subject to the supervised quarantine at a cost to them of $2,500. If they come to Darwin they will quarantine in Howard Springs at the former Inpex workers’ camp. He said anyone from Sydney who is currently in NT quarantine or enters quarantine here before Friday will have serve the full 14 days of quarantine.
“Many of the identified cases are so far confined to the Liverpool area, (but) not all of them are,” he said.
“We know this reached the Sydney CBD, at least, and it is possible it made it up to Queensland already. Something the Victorian situation taught us, you don’t make a decision solely on what today’s numbers are. You look at today’s numbers and you map out how bad it could get.”
“This has the potential to get worse before it gets better,” he said. “And we need to assume that it will get worse.”
On Tuesday Australian Medical Association NT president Robert Parker told the ABC that the borders should be closed to NSW for at least two weeks until the issues around the Casula cluster – with 30 active cases as of Wednesday morning – can be further understood.
Queensland has banned residents of 77 Sydney suburbs from entering the state.
Chief health officer Dr Hugh Heggie said restricting the spread of the disease came down to personal behaviour but dismissed the idea of like Western Australia, testing all interstate arrivals for COVID-19, because it would only be beneficial testing people from higher risk places.
However all those in supervised quarantine will be tested before they leave quarantine.
“I want to reassure the whole community that I would like to see the Territory be the place that it is and has been, but also others to come and visit here,” Dr Heggie said.
“But in doing that there is some risk and I think it’s a significant mental health issue for people who would become unemployed and businesses would fail. If we actually had to have controls and have, you know, businesses, not operating as they can, at the moment.”