NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said the couple’s contact with the public had been minimal. (ABC News: Michael Franchi)
A Northern Territory police officer and his wife who live near the remote central Australian community of Harts Range have tested positive for COVID-19.
- Five new COVID-19 cases were confirmed by NT Health on Thursday night
- On Friday, a Darwin woman tested positive, bringing the NT total to 13
- There have been no cases of community transmission so far in the NT
NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said the couple had been on an overseas holiday when the COVID-19 pandemic escalated and flew back to Australia last Sunday.
They flew into Yulara on a domestic flight before driving to their home outside the Harts Range community, which is about 200 kilometres from Alice Springs.
Commissioner Chalker said the couple maintained “complete separation” from the community and contacted the health service when they became unwell, and a test kit was left outside the couple’s home.
“We now know that that test returned positive confirmation for both of them,” he said.
The couple was then escorted to Alice Springs hospital, where they remain.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the couple followed isolation guidelines. (ABC News: Michael Franchi)
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Couple followed procedure
Concern about the potentially devastating effects of any spread of the infection in the Northern Territory’s remote Aboriginal communities has led to strict controls on travel and access.
But NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the couple followed isolation procedures “to the letter”.
“I don’t want [COVID-19] anywhere near a remote community,” he said.
Mr Gunner said anyone returning to remote communities from overseas now had to spend 14 days in self-isolation outside the community first, but this rule had come into effect after the couple had already chosen to self-isolate.
Commissioner Chalker said health staff and the local regional council in Harts Range had now been asked to leave by concerned community members.
“There is no need for that with what is before us at the moment,” he said.
“I would like to apologise to the residents of the community near the Harts Range police station — which is some two and a half kilometres away — for the distress that has been caused to them by the actions of people external to the community making contact with them and creating a sense of fear and apprehension.”
Commissioner Chalker said the process of contact tracing was underway and NT Health would determine if any precautionary testing was needed in Harts Range.
“My understanding from my earlier discussions today is that the contact tracing so far and the behaviours of the officer and their spouse and the steps they have taken has reduced the likelihood of transfer to very, very, very low,” he said.
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NT Police to ramp up checks
Mr Gunner said NT police had been conducting random spot checks on people who are meant to be in self-isolation and would be ramping up the effort.
“There’s been more than 200 checks in the last two days with a 99 per cent compliance rate,” he said.
“To the 1 per cent — if you think it’s fine to pop out to the shops for five minutes, then none of what we are doing matters.
“The health of your social life is not more important than the health of Territorians.”
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Police are using roadblocks near Alice Springs to stop the spread of coronavirus to Indigenous communities. (ABC: Samantha Jonscher)
Mr Gunner said NT Police would now conduct daily checks on everyone self-isolating and those caught not complying would face fines of up to $62,800.
“If you need to be, [people not complying] can be sent to mandatory, controlled quarantine. Controlled by us,” he said.
Mr Gunner said all international arrivals in the NT would now be placed in controlled quarantine, with the NT Government footing the bill for travellers to stay in hotels.
He also confirmed Territorians returning from overseas who arrived back in another Australian state would have to self-isolate twice — once in their first arrival destination and again when they returned to the NT.
“The more careful we are now, the quicker this will be over,” Mr Gunner said.
“We will be urging everyone to maintain their discipline to self-isolate.”
Commissioner Chalker said the officer and his wife isolated in their home outside the community. (Supplied: Google)
The Harts Range couple was among five new cases of COVID-19 confirmed by the NT Health Department on Thursday night.
The five includes two couples, as well as a Queensland woman who was transiting through Darwin and is counted in her home state’s tally.
A Darwin woman in her 50s who recently returned from overseas tested positive for COVID-19 this afternoon.
She was in self-quarantine for a number of days after returning from Pakistan before developing mild symptoms, and is now being treated in isolation at the Royal Darwin Hospital.
Commissioner Chalker said, despite the jump in cases, there remained no community transmission in the Northern Territory.
“That is why we are stepping up these efforts to ensure that that continues,” he said.
“We want to maximise the time before that may occur in the Northern Territory.”
How do I get tested in the NT?
- If you can’t contact or get to your GP, but you have the symptoms, you should call 1800 008 002
- This is a dedicated NT-wide coronavirus (COVID-19) number for people who need to arrange testing only
- If you live in Darwin and need to arrange testing, call the Public Health Unit on 8922 8044
- Patients who are tested should remain isolated at home until they receive their test results
- For general advice, Territorians can call 1800 020 080
Latest information from SecureNT website
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