Katherine and Robinson River enters 72-hour snap lockdown

Two new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the Northern Territory in a remote Aboriginal community.

The first is a fully vaccinated, 43-year-old Aboriginal man.

He lives with seven others in Katherine East but he also spends time in the Robinson River community.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said two COVID-19 cases have been linked to a remote Aboriginal community. (9News)

He had a COVID-19 test on November 9 which came back negative.

On Saturday, November 13 he was tested again and this result came back positive today.

Health authorities are treating him as though he has been infectious since November 10.

The second case is a 30-year-old Aboriginal woman who was a household contact of the man.

She flew into the Robinson River remote Aboriginal community, where she is a resident, on November 11.

She is symptomatic and underwent a point of care test today in Robertson River, which has returned an initial positive result.

Health authorities are treating her as being infectious in the Robinson River community since November 11.

“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, but we are very prepared for this,” NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.

Mr Gunner said there is a lack of a clear link between the 43-year-old Aboriginal man and the previous cases linked to the Darwin Katherine cluster.

The last known positive cases from the Darwin-Katherine cluster were not in the community after November 4.

“We can not presume the positive wastewater tests in Katherine were from these individuals,” Mr Gunner said.

“The length of time between cases in Katherine and the lack of a clear link means there may be seeding in Katherine.

“We’ve also received an additional positive wastewater result for both catchments on November 13.”

As a result of the new cases, Greater Katherine entered a snap, 72-hour lockdown at 6pm yesterday (local time).

Robinson River and surrounding homelands also went into lockdown, with the same timeframe.

NT Health is making contact with each of those homelands and advising people to stay where they are.

Katherine lockdown
Greater Katherine entered a snap, 72-hour lockdown at 6pm yesterday (local time). (Krystle Wright)

There are five reasons to leave the home, including:

  • Medical treatment, including getting a COVID-19 test and getting vaccinated. 
  • For essential goods and services like groceries and medicines. 
  • For work that is considered essential and can’t be done at home. 
  • For one hour of exercise a day within five kilometres from your home. This can be done with one other person or people that you live with.
  • To provide care to a family member, including separated families during the care of children

Schools and childcare centres in Katherine will be open only for the children of essential workers.

Schools and early childhood services in Robinson River and the surrounding homelands will be closed.

This is except for year 12 students doing exams.

Essential workers who are fully vaccinated or have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine can continue to go to work.

A mask mandate is already in place and will remain in place and will be strengthened. 

Residents must wear a mask when they leave home and residents are permitted to leave their mask off if they are undertaking vigorous exercise.

A rapid assessment team of eight people has been dispatched to the Robinson River community.

The team includes both health experts and police as well as additional vaccines.

There is also a team being sent to the nearby community of Borroloola, which is a nearby community of about 1000 people, with a first dose vaccination rate of 77 per cent and full vaccination rate of 60 per cent.

Katherine has a vaccination rate of around 80 per cent, but more remote areas do not have the same level of cover.

“… it’s not so much Katherine that we are concerned about in terms of vaccination rates, it’s about the potential transmission outside of Katherine through Aboriginal communities, such as Robinson River,” Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Charles Pain said.

“Robinson River has a good uptake actually which is a very fortunate thing. There are obviously communities around there which are not.”

The vaccine rate for Robinson River is 77 per cent full vaccination and 87 per cent first dose in the community of about 350 people.

“We’ll certainly be wanting to test almost everyone in those communities,” he said.

“We need very high rates of testing. That is part of our plan, when there is an outbreak in a remote community, you see high rates of testing.

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“The teams will be taking large quantities of swabs, but they’ll be testing with PCR at this stage.”

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