The Northern Territory will reopen its borders to residents from Sydney from Friday 9 October, provided the city’s coronavirus case numbers remain low.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner told reporters that the decision to revoke the Greater Sydney area’s hotspot status had been influenced by health advice relating to the “sustained downward trend” of cases in Sydney, successful contact tracing, and a high rate of testing.
Since 17 July, travellers from the Greater Sydney area have been required to undertake 14 days of quarantine, at their own cost (with low-income earners eligible to apply for reduced fees), upon arrival to the NT.
Minister Gunner said the NT government would closely monitor coronavirus cases in the region ahead of the territory’s planned reopening to Sydney on 9 October.
“The testing being done and the links of almost all new cases, the known clusters, gives us a high degree of confidence that there are no unknown outbreaks occurring,” he said.
“If things change [and] the trend goes back up in Sydney, we will not hesitate to keep their hotspot status in place for as long as we need to.”
In the past 24 hours to 8pm Monday, NSW recorded seven new coronavirus cases, four of which were from returned travellers in hotel quarantine, two locally acquired from a known cluster of cases, and one that was also locally acquired but remains under investigation.
Meanwhile, Qantas is preparing to increase its services to Darwin from Sydney as of 9 October, with daily, direct flights set to resume then, a spokeswoman from the airline confirmed to Travel Weekly.
The news comes also comes as Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles yesterday revealed the territory has clinically eradicated coronavirus for the second time, with its last case recorded on 31 July.
To meet the definition for clinical eradication, according to ABC News, there needs to be no new recorded cases for 28 days since the last recovered case of the virus.
Minister Fyles reiterated that while the NT had hit the clinical definition of eradication the territory was, and still is, aiming for a suppression strategy of the coronavirus.
“I do believe we will see COVID-19 in the Territory, but we are well prepared to deal with that,” she told reporters.
“In terms of the eradication, we may see cases again in the NT but we have the resources in place, the testing, the contact tracing, to keep Territorians safe, to contain and suppress that outbreak.”
Fyles also backed the territory government’s plan to remove the hotspot declaration for Metropolitan Sydney on 9 October, provided case numbers in the area continue to trend down.
Furthermore, when asked if Darwin’s Howard Springs quarantine facility could be used to repatriate Australians stranded overseas due to coronavirus, Fyles said the government was “certainly open” to the idea, as reported by ABC News.
According to the national broadcaster, the prospect of using the facility to quarantine international arrivals is being pushed by federal Labor MP Luke Gosling, who has suggested Howard Springs could be a solution to Australian citizens being denied entry to the country.
Australian citizens are being denied entry to their own country 🇦🇺. I’m helping people get home & have seen alot of trauma & financial ruin for Aussies across the world.
— Luke Gosling MP (@lukejgosling) September 13, 2020
Featured image source: ABC News