Northern Territory residents are poised to learn whether the extended COVID lockdown in greater Darwin will lift at midnight as planned.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner was to reveal the lockdown decision at 3pm local time on Monday (4.30pm ADST).
The press conference for Mr Gunner’s announcement was repeatedly pushed back throughout the day, sparking speculation about what he might announce.
It came after the Darwin lockdown was extended by 24 hours on Sunday, despite no new coronavirus cases in the area.
The lockdown in Katherine, 320 kilometres south of Darwin, became a “lockout” at 3pm on Sunday, with only vaccinated people permitted to move around freely. Mr Gunner said that would also end at midnight on Monday “if all goes well”.
“We’re in a much better position than we were yesterday,” he said.
“We’ve had … no positive [cases] and we now know the source of the infection.”
Also on Sunday, NT authorities said a COVID-positive woman who lied on her border entry form when entering Darwin had been fined.
Mr Gunner said the 21-year-old was issued with a $5024 infringement notice after she was questioned by Northern Territory detectives for five hours.
“She will pay because she lied to officials,” he said.
Mr Gunner said the woman’s actions had “put the Territory at risk”.
Before arriving in Darwin the woman spent time in Melbourne, where Mr Gunner said she “almost certainly” contracted the virus, before visiting Adelaide and Cairns. She arrived in Darwin from Queensland on October 29.
The woman is a close contact of the index case, an unvaccinated man in his 20s who worked at RAAF Tindal, near Katherine. Mr Gunner said the man had “saved lives” by getting tested as soon as he was symptomatic.
Flight Centre mulls court action
Flight Centre has flagged a legal challenge to Western Australia’s “unreasonable” border rules.
Chief executive Graham Turner said the company was consulting lawyers and tourism businesses – including some in WA – about seeking a potential judicial review of the closed borders in the Federal Court.
“It has affected a lot of people quite badly from a business point of view, particularly in travel, tourism, airlines and airports, but also, you know, I’ve really feel for the people who haven’t been able to see their close relatives, their parents, grandparents for quite a long time,” Mr Turner told the ABC on Monday.
“There is a whole range of different issues that come with closed borders and lockdowns, much more so than just COVID infection, which luckily we’ve got a very effective vaccine.”
Mr Turner said Flight Centre felt it had a good case to challenge Premier Mark McGowan’s decision to keep WA’s borders closed until 90 per cent of over-12s had been vaccinated – likely to be February.
“It is not necessarily going to change the world if we win, but it certainly will change the interstate travel in the short term,” Mr Turner said.
Also on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison took a swipe at WA’s hard line. He said the plan, revealed by Mr McGowan last Friday, would do “more harm than good”.
“The modelling done by the Doherty Institute makes it very clear and that’s what was agreed in the national plan, not just once but twice, and that is once you hit 80 per cent, double dose vaccination rates, then you’re able to move forward,” he said.
Mr McGowan will not set a specific date for reopening until WA reaches 80 per cent vaccination, expected in the first half of December.
Last year, mining magnate Clive Palmer lost a High Court bid to have the WA border stance declared unconstitutional. Mr Turner said that was why Flight Centre was considering seeking a judicial review.
“It is a significant difference,” he said.
“The other difference is there is widespread vaccinations now of not only the vulnerable people but everyone over 16. The circumstances have changed dramatically, for the better, obviously.”
NSW closes in on 90 per cent vaxxed
An unvaccinated man in his 30s with no significant underlying health conditions was one of seven COVID-19 deaths reported in NSW on Monday, as the state nears its 90 per cent full vaccination rate.
The man, from south-west Sydney, died at Royal North Shore Hospital.
The other six deaths include two women who died at an Albury aged-care facility, where they acquired their infections, and a Sydney man in his 80s who died at Prince of Wales Hospital, where he caught the virus.
Meanwhile, the percentage of eligible people aged 16 and over in NSW with two vaccine doses is 89.9 per cent while 93.9 per cent have had at least one.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said reaching 90 per cent full vaccination would be “momentous”.
“We’re really getting back to normality here in NSW,” he said.
“That’s a testament to everybody right across the state going out and getting vaccinated.”
Rapid tests for Vic kids
Free rapid antigen tests will be distributed to Victorian schools to get students identified as virus close contacts back in class twice as fast.
The Victorian government will trial the tests in 20 outbreak-stricken schools, before being rolled out across the state from November 15.
The approved at-home tests, part of a stockpile of 200,000 secured by the state government, will be offered to unvaccinated students deemed primary close contacts of a positive case at school.
It will allow students to return to face-to-face learning after seven days in isolation, rather than the current requirement of 14.
The program will operate on an opt-in basis and exclude fully-vaccinated children, who need to quarantine only for seven days under existing rules.
Education Minister James Merlino said children made up one-in-three primary close contacts across the state, with those under 12 still ineligible to get a COVID vaccine.
Victoria had another 1126 local COVID infections on Monday. There were also five deaths of people aged in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, bringing the state’s toll across the pandemic to 1182.