By OSCAR PERRI and ERWIN CHLANDA
The Alice lock-down [now lifted] was hitting the recovering tourist industry hard: One of its main figures, Brendan Heenan, says his MacDonnell Range Caravan Park has had cancellations for 170 vans yesterday and 190 today.
At two people or more per van that means well over 700 people aren’t going to visit Alice.
“The lock-down is completely unnecessary,” says Mr Heenan. “There is no COVID in Alice Springs.”
He says Chief Minister Michael Gunner is “power hungry”.
Meanwhile Woolworths supermarket shelves are mostly full again. Shoppers have clearly stopped panic buying and all of those we observed yesterday were wearing masks.
Mr Gunners says all identified Alice Springs Airport close and casual contacts with the infected miner are in isolation and undergoing testing.
The Tanami mine worker who unknowingly caused the current lockdown had 69 close contacts and a further 52 casual contacts during his seven hour wait at the airport, as contact tracing continues.
“It’s good news so far [for Alice Springs], but the next 24 hours are very important, we want to see more information, test results and wastewater results to give us even more confidence,” Mr Gunner said yesterday.
Police say compliance with the new restrictions in Alice Springs has been good, though a 33-year-old received a fine after refusing to wear a mask.
A new case in Darwin yesterday was another who had been at the Tanami mine site, arriving in Darwin on the 25th before being identified as a close contact and being put into quarantine at Howard Springs the following day.
It was not until a second test was taken that he returned a positive result.
“With the Delta strain we cannot rely on the first test to give us comfort,” Mr Gunner said.
“There is no reason to believe he was infectious in his very limited time in the community, for this reason there are no new exposure sites.”
Mr Gunner is scheduled to make announcements this morning about ending the Darwin lock-down (scheduled today) and Alice (tomorrow).
Though Mr Gunner warns that restrictions will not all be immediately lifted, with some remaining in place as the Territory eases its way out of the situation. Everyone currently in isolation will have to remain so for the full 14 day period.
Meanwhile the COVID staff is declining to answer questions from the Alice Springs News, saying: “Most of your questions have been addressed in the Chief Minister, Chief Health Officer and Territory Controller’s daily press conferences or the press releases on the coronavirus website.”
Both of us (reporter Perri and editor Chlanda) have carefully monitored events and we could find no answers to the following questions we put to COVID about Central Australia (the southern half of the NT including Tennant Creek).
On June 30:
How many people were tested in Central Australia? How many were found to be infected? If any, how many infections were the result of community transmission? How many people in Central Australia had their first jab? How many their second? How many people have the virus in total (since the start of the pandemic)? What should we tell tourists about their stay in Central Australia? (Are they safe; should they turn back? Should they enjoy the region?) Are people coming from Darwin on the day before it was locked down, and since, told to isolate? If not why not?
On June 30 he was tested again and the test is positive. Alice Springs is locked down.
We put to Covidmedia NT that South Australia has not been locked down although some 30 Granites mine workers returned to that state during the above events (source: InDaily).
How come Alice Springs has to be locked down despite all people who had contact were in a location covered by CCTV (sections of the airport)?
By contrast this is how InDaily described the situation in SA: “The new case arrived in Adelaide at 5pm on Friday on Virgin Flight VA1742, with more than 100 passengers asked to quarantine for 14 days. SA Health has also asked all travellers and visitors at the Adelaide Airport terminal between 5.40pm and 6.30pm on Friday, June 25 to get tested immediately and isolate for 14 days.”
How come it still takes up to 72 hours to get a test result in Alice Springs?
Why has the sewage testing facility in Alice Springs not been installed much earlier in the 18 months – so far – of the pandemic?
Please describe the negotiations with the military for support with the current COVID initiatives.
We will report Covidmedia’s responses if and when we receive them.