Northern Territory regions of Katherine and Robinson River are in lockdown after two confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported.
As of 6pm Northern Territory time Monday, Greater Katherine and Robinson River and surrounding homelands entered a snap lockdown.
Both confirmed cases of COVID-19 are Aboriginal people.
The first being a fully vaccinated, 43-year-old Aboriginal man. A resident of Katherine East, the man reportedly visits the Robinson River, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, frequently.
The second case is a 30-year-old Aboriginal woman, who is a household contact of the man. She is a resident of the Robinson River community. She had returned home on November 11.
The woman is the first case of COVID-19 detected in a remote community.
Addressing the media on Monday, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner described the situation as “serious”.
“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.”
The Chief Minister noted there was no identified link between the 43-year-old man and the previous Darwin/Katherine cluster – of which the last known case was November 4.
“The length of time between cases in Katherine and the lack of a clear link means there may be seeding in Katherine,” he said.
Currently NT health authorities are working to identify exposure sites and contacting close contacts.
Authorities are advising people in the regions in lockdown to stay where they are.
Currently, residents of the regions are only able to leave the home for essential goods and services, essential work, one-hour of exercise, to provide care to a family member or for medical treatment, including getting the COVID-19 vaccination.
All residents must wear a mask when they leave the home, however, can go without a mask if they are undertaking “vigorous” exercise.
A rapid assessment team has been sent to the Robinson River community, which includes health experts and additional vaccines.
The Katherine currently has a vaccination rate of around 80 per cent, and Robinson River currently sits at 77 per cent for fully vaccination and 87 per cent for first dose.
“Robinson River has a good uptake actually which is a very fortunate thing. There are obviously communities around there which are not,” Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Charles Pain on Monday.
Health authorities have also dispatched a rapid assessment team to Borroloola to vaccinate the almost 1000-people community.
Currently, Borroloola has a first dose vaccination rate of 77 per cent and a full vaccination rate of 60 per cent.
Dr Pain clarified that the top priority is stopping the transmission of the virus into remote Aboriginal communities.
“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.
“The teams will be taking large quantities of swabs, but they’ll be testing with PCR at this stage.”
By Rachael Knowles