Two new positive COVID-19 cases in Katherine as fears grow, masks still required across NT

by | Nov 19, 2021 | COVID-19, News | 0 comments

There have been two new confirmed positive COVID-19 cases recorded in the Katherine, Chief Minister Michael Gunner has said, and despite waste water tests being negative in jurisdictions outside of Katherine, mask wearing is still required across the Territory.

Mr Gunner told a press conference on Friday morning the new cases included a 33-year-old health worker who had been classified as a close contact, and a 59-year-old Indigenous woman who had not been considered a contact but took a test because she had symptoms.

Acting chief health officer Dr Charles Pain said the man was being treated in Royal Darwin Hospital, and had underlying health conditions.

The Katherine and Robinson River cluster now stands at 25. Mr Gunner said they had revised the close contacts down to 373, with 13 of those yet to be contacted, and 215 of the total returning negative tests, with no test results yet for 158 people.

Of those, there were three close contacts identified in Yuendumu, and one close contact in Tennant Creek, and they will be taken to the Howard Springs quarantine facility, Mr Gunner said. He did not give their test results.

“Remoteness does not protect you, the vaccine protects you,” he said.

He said there was no COVID-19 found in the waste water in towns outside of Katherine and Howard Springs but more test results were due tonight, and masks were still required for people across the Territory when they leave their homes.

Late yesterday, he told the press conference, they found COVID-19 in wastewater in the Binjari Aborginal community which sits within the Katherine lockdown area.

Mr Gunner said there were about 200 residents in the community and all will be tested for COVID-19 today.

He said the government would re-asses the mask mandate and he hoped it would be lifted in most areas tomorrow.

On Thursday, the government said the genomic sequencing of the current cluster confirmed it is linked to the previous cluster that forced the lockdown of Katherine and the lockout of Darwin earlier this month.

That outbreak was caused by a 21-year-old woman who arrived in Darwin from Cairns and lied to authorities about where she had been, including Melbourne, which was a declared COVID hotspot.

A close contact of hers, a 26-year-old man who had spent time in Katherine and Darwin, was the first COVID-19 positive case, identified on November 4.

That cluster grew to include four people. It has now led to 25 positive cases.

“We still don’t know how it went from that small first cluster to no cases for nine days, to that second cluster that came from the first,” Mr Gunner said.

“There is a very real possibility there are people in Katherine who have COVID, who either don’t know it, or don’t want to know it.

“And those people have then spread it into the community. If that is what actually happened, best case scenario it hasn’t spread any further than what we have caught so far.

“Worst case scenario it has been silently spreading for a week and we are a day or two away from discovering a disaster.”

There were no new positive COVID-19 cases from the Katherine and Robinson River outbreak announced on Thursday, but on Wednesday the NT recorded eight positive cases, and there were nine cases recorded on Tuesday.

Mr Gunner said all those nine cases were Indigenous people in Katherine who were close household contacts with the two cases reported on Monday.

On Monday, the NT recorded its first positive case of COVID-19 in a remote community, with two new positive cases reported – one in a 43-year-old vaccincated man from Katherine, and the other case in a unvaccinated 30-year-old woman who was also in Robinson River, near Borroloola.

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