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Federal government shuts down parts of the Northern Territory to ‘protect remote communities’ from Covid outbreak

The federal government has taken the bold step of shutting down parts of the Northern Territory in a desperate bid to protect the community from a Covid outbreak.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced a surprise plan to protect remote communities as a concerning Covid-19 outbreak wreaks havoc in the Northern Territory.

In a media statement released on Wednesday morning, it was revealed that the Australian Government has implemented “additional measures” in a bid to contain the crisis.

Under the new rules, parts of the territory will effectively be shut down, with Mr Hunt stating “the measures are being implemented based on the best public health advice and will be in place only as long as necessary to keep the community safe”.

At this stage, they are due to lift at 6pm on November 18.

“As Minister for Health and Aged Care, I have made a determination under section 477 of the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act 2015 to prevent a person from entering and/or exiting the Robinson River and surrounding homelands, which is aimed at stopping any further spread of Covid-19 in the community,” Mr Hunt’s statement reads.

“The implementation of these measures will help to contain the current outbreak by ensuring that a person will only enter and/or leave the area if necessary, and for essential purposes.

“These measures will help to prevent and contain the current Covid-19 outbreak in the Robinson River, and will assist in preventing the emergence, establishment and spread of the disease to neighbouring remote communities in the Northern Territory.”

The statement confirms the measures were based on medical advice from the acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sonya Bennett, and that the determination was made at the request of the Northern Territory government, in order to support state measures enacted to combat the crisis.

It is supported by the Northern Land Council and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory (AMSANT), and comes after “extensive” engagement with the Northern Territory Government and consultation with and support from Federal MPs and representatives of the affected communities.

“The approach is consistent with extensive planning undertaken by the Australian Government in partnership with the Northern Territory Government, the Aboriginal Advisory Group on COVID-19, the National Aboriginal community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Northern Territory Land Councils, the National Indigenous Australians’ Agency (NIAA) and the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector,” the statement continues.

Robinson River residents are urged to follow health directions, get tested and book Covid vaccinations as soon as possible.

The announcement comes after Chief Minister Michael Gunner announced on November 16 that Covid had reached a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory for the first time since the pandemic began, sparking a three day lockdown.

Earlier this week, a fully vaccinated man from Katherine East tested positive, with authorities announcing the 43-year-old also spent time in the Robinson River region.

A female household contact also tested positive, and Mr Gunner said she had been in the Robinson River community while infectious for some days.

“This is undoubtedly the most serious update I’ve had to give you since the start of the pandemic because it involves a case in a remote community,” Mr Gunner said on Monday.

“But we are very prepared for this.”


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