NT scraps rapid antigen test requirement for arrivals, as COVID-19 hospital admissions rise to 121

The number of people with COVID-19 in Northern Territory hospitals has risen to a new peak of 121, up from 111 on Saturday, Prime Minister Michael Gunner has announced.

Of those, eight patients are receiving oxygen, down from 10 yesterday, and there are three in intensive care.

The NT recorded 849 new cases of coronavirus in the 24 hours up to 8pm yesterday, Mr Gunner said.

There are now 5,150 active cases in the Territory.

The number of patients in hospital now represents about 2.4 per cent of the NT’s total active cases.

Mr Gunner also said Saturday’s daily case tally had been revised up from 828 to 879, following the addition of more positive RAT test results.

In a major change to testing rules in the NT, Mr Gunner announced that from Tuesday, the government would be scrapping its current rapid antigen testing regime for interstate and international arrivals, which has required travelers to take three tests and report the results within a week of entering.

It means arrivals will now be able to enter the Territory without taking a rapid antigen test.

They also will not be required to use the G2G app, though they will still need to complete a border entry form before arrival.

Unvaccinated travelers remain barred from entering the Territory without an exemption.

Mr Gunner said the change would preserve much-needed RAT tests and free up frontline staff at a point when local transmission had overtaken spread from interstate or overseas as the major source of infection in the NT.

“The peak of interstate arrivals ahead of the return to school has now passed and we are now very confident that the overwhelming majority of new cases in the Territory are being acquired locally, not from Interstate,” he said.

“At this point, providing a test to a random arrival at the airport is about as effective as providing a test to a random person on the street in Darwin, that is, not effective.

He said the NT still had a “secure supply” of RAT tests “and we want to keep it that way”.

Mr Gunner also said from 2pm today, seven-day “lock-ins” would come into effect in the remote communities of Ampilatwatja, Palumpa, Milingimbi, Milikapiti, Elcho Island including Galiwin’ku and the Wessell Islands.

During the lock-in period, people will not need to stay at home, but they will not be permitted to leave the community without an exemption.

Police will monitor transport in and out of the communities, with all non-essential road and other transport to cease.

Mr Gunner said breaching lock-in restrictions would see individuals fined more than $ 5,000.

“We’ve been trying to stop and slow the spread of Omicron with lockdowns and lockouts for some weeks now, with, I think it’s fair to say, limited success,” he said.

“This has also been the international experience – lockdowns struggle to contain Omicron.

“Given the difficulties in stopping the spread of Omicron within a community, our priorities now have to be on ensuring we can limit spread between communities and focusing our efforts on caring for sick people, rather than using up manpower and hours and forcing stay-at -home orders for people who aren’t sick or who aren’t high risk. “

Mr Gunner said lockouts in Alice Springs, Amoonguna, Yuendumu and Yuelamu would all lift at 2pm today, as scheduled.

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