An undisclosed number of potentially infected coronavirus carriers from Victoria have come into the NT for weeks, with supervised quarantine not being enforced until next Friday, Chief Minister Michael Gunner has confirmed.
Mr Gunner announced on Wednesday morning that anyone coming from Victoria as of July 17 will be put into forced supervised quarantine – but that means people coming in until that date who may have had contact with the massive Melbourne COVID-19 outbreak are being permitted to designate their own place of quarantine.
In the last week alone, 19 people have been fined for breaching self-quarantine orders in the NT.
One new COVID-19 case in Darwin was detected last week in a man who had spent time in Melbourne and is now being treated at Royal Darwin Hospital.
NT Police have recently stopped informing the public of where the people who breached quarantine have come from.
It’s not entirely clear why the Gunner Government wouldn’t be requiring all travelers from Victoria to immediately be put under mandatory supervised quarantine.
“From 17 July, anyone from anywhere in the country who arrives in the Territory today, quarantine – from 17 July, supervised mandatory quarantine,” Mr Gunner said at a press conference Wednesday morning.
Mr Gunner added that he spoke with NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker about the breaches, but that he is satisfied self-quarantine is working.
“We have seen a number of breaches that I’m not happy about,” he said. “But we’re still seeing significantly good compliance past that 99 per cent mark. The police do have the ability to take anyone who infringes, based on their opinion of the infringement, into forced quarantine.
“So we have forced quarantine right now but it is based on the discretion of the enforcement officer who is talking to a person who has broken their quarantine.”
Mr Gunner was asked why, in a high risk situation, he was not forcing people into supervised quarantine now.
“I am obviously open to the option of forced quarantine, we have done it before and we’re doing it again from 17 July,” he said.
“I’ll never rule it out but right now my advice from the Police Commissioner is the compliance levels are exceedingly good, we’re having a few idiots but we’re in control of the situation.”
Police have previously called the breaches “utterly unacceptable”.
Late last month, a woman from Melbourne was discovered breaching a self-quarantine order and working at a remote community store.
Another case saw a 27-year-old man discovered breaching quarantine to go to a nightclub in Darwin.
Victoria recorded 191 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday and a further 134 cases on Wednesday. Melbourne has been forced into lockdown over the outbreak. Other states closed their borders to Victoria long before July 17.
Territory Alliance leader Terry Mills said Mr Gunner was making “confusing” public statements about the Territory’s response to the outbreak in Melbourne.
“It’s well overdue time for a professional approach to a serious health issue,” he said. “When Gunner was plugged into National Cabinet following health advice we did well. Now he’s romping off on his own, our community is very anxious.
“Drop the game playing Gunner and hand the update announcements over to SecureNT for clear advice on the protocols.”
Mr Mills called for the fines for breaching quarantine to be increased from $1,095 to $5,000 “so that people get the message”.
“Anyone found outside their place of self-quarantine should be immediately sent to the Howard Springs facility for the remaining duration of their quarantine,” he said.