NEWS

Header_Coronavirus_Section.jpg

Virus now outside Darwin raising concerns

(L-R) Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles,  Australian Government Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt speak to the media after a conference of the federal and state and Territory Health Ministers at a COAG meeting in Melbourne, Friday, February 28, 2020. (AAP Image/David Crosling) NO ARCHIVING

NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles (middle) confirmed today that the first Northern Territory residents outside Darwin to test positive for coronavirus have been recorded (AAP Image/David Crosling)

The first Northern Territory residents outside Darwin to test positive for coronavirus have been recorded including a couple from central Australia raising fears that indigenous communities were more at risk.

NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles told reporters she did not know whether they were from a town or indigenous community despite it being more than 12 hours since it was announced.

The ability of non-residents to go to indigenous NT communities has been greatly restricted as the global pandemic has spread.

That is because of past experiences of viruses such as the 2009 swine flu causing six-fold more per capita deaths and far more hospitalisations among Aboriginal people.

This week the Commonwealth government announced anyone wanting to enter remote NT communities that are home to nearly 60,000 people would have to self-isolate for 14 days beforehand.

The Central Australian couple had been on holiday in Austria and returned to the NT on Jetstar flight JQ664 from Melbourne to Yulara last Sunday.

They had followed all precautions and gone into isolation before feeling unwell and testing positive for COVID-19 at their home and were now being treated about five hours drive from Yulara at Alice Springs hospital, the Centre for Disease Control NT said.

Ms Fyles said she had only been told that they lived in central Australia and would not say if they had been in isolation in an indigenous community.

"I don't have that detail, that is what the Centre for Disease Control is working through," she said.

"We of course understand the anxiety of the broader Territory community, particularly those that live in a remote community and we will provide that detail when we have it.

"We also need to follow clinical processes and respect privacy."

"I can assure you that the CDC assured me that these people followed the practice of isolation having come back as international travellers."

A Katherine couple, aged in their 60s, had returned from a holiday in South Africa on Silk Air flight MI801 from Singapore to Darwin last Saturday.

They tested positive at Katherine Hospital.

A Queensland woman in her 20s arrived in Darwin on Thursday March on Qantas flight QF2 from London and tested positive.

Contact tracing was occurring, including contacting people sitting near them on planes.

Twelve Territorians have now been diagnosed with COVID-19, all of whom had been overseas with no community transmissions yet.

Indigenous groups around the Territory have arranged for more than 1400 remote residents to go back to their home communities this week from Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs.

Ms Fyles said the Department of Health would increase the number of people being tested for COVID-19 to police officers, teachers,and disability workers if they showed any possible symptoms because they were needed at work.

That comes after the federal government also extended testing to healthcare and aged care workers.

Welfare support was also being offered to people who felt isolated and needed help getting groceries, with information available from local electorate offices and the government coronavirus website.

© AAP 2020