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Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner apologises for saying sex worker caused Covid-19 outbreak

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has “unreservedly” apologised after an awkward social media post left a woman “horrified”.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has apologised after his Facebook page incorrectly claimed a positive Covid case was a sex worker.

This week, a Darwin Covid cluster had NT authorities on high alert, after a 21-year-old woman flew from Cairns to Adelaide and then drove to Melbourne on October 21.

She spent four days in Victoria and then returned to Adelaide, before flying to Cairns and then on to Darwin on October 29 – but failed to declare her trip to Victoria, which is a Covid hotspot.

She returned a weak positive result on November 5 after being identified as a close contact, and passed the virus on to a 26-year-old man after spending two nights in a Darwin hotel upon her return.

She was also in the community while infectious for seven days before authorities caught up with her and confirmed the serious Covid breach.

Then, on Monday evening, Mr Gunner’s Facebook page stated the young woman was a sex worker.

“She is a sex worker, she should not be judged for this. But what frustrates me and our contact tracing team is that she was not forthcoming with this information earlier,” the post reads.

“The discovery of this information is obviously crucial and it will lead to additional close contacts. The contacts are considered at a higher risk of being infected than standard close contacts.”

The post was quickly removed, and an NT government spokesman told the ABC it was shared in error due to a “process failure”, and that the information was “factually incorrect and had not been approved by the Chief Minister being published to [his] Facebook page”.

“As soon as we were aware of the error, this was rectified immediately and the incorrect information was removed,” the spokesman continued.

“The Chief Minister and his office unreservedly apologise for the publication of this incorrect information and any hurt or distress that this caused.”

However, the woman in question, who is now staying at the Howard Springs quarantine centre, told the NT News she was horrified by the accusation and denied being a sex worker.

“The NT Police interrogate(d) me asking if I was a sex worker 100 times over – which I’m not,” she told the publication.

“I am so f — king livid at the moment,” she said, adding that staying at Howard Springs was “not good for my mental health”.

The woman has been fined $5024 for her Covid breach, and will also have to shell out $2500 for her mandatory stay at Howard Springs.

The NT cluster plunged the Katherine region into lockdown earlier this month in a bid to stop the spread.


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