By ERWIN CHLANDA
The government gives numbers related to the Top End COVID outbreak with great precision – to the accuracy of one.
However, there are some worrying gaps: For example, how many of the 504 people who were at “casual contact” places where the infected man had been, and the 93 who were at “close contact” sites, subsequently made their way to Alice Springs?
The government mandated lock-down in Darwin and Katherine, ending at noon today in Darwin and tomorrow in Katherine, came into force at noon on Monday.
But the positive testing man had arrived in Darwin three days before the lock-down and had been to 13 locations there and in Katherine.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner says he does “not respect” the claimed right of the man to withhold information about his vaccination status to authorities, and is looking into the legalities of making it a mandatory condition of entry to the Territory.
Sources say contract trackers had established the identity of all people who frequented these locations and by yesterday had not been able to locate just 12 of them – all from the Woolworths supermarket in Katherine and possibly south-bound travellers.
Given that meticulous research the COVID team would know which of those people had – without breaking the rules – left the lock-down area before Monday noon and made their way to Alice Springs. There was no lock-down here.
The Alice Springs News asked yesterday how many, if any, of the 597 people identified had gone to Alice Springs. We have not yet been given that information.
The Delta virus, which is believed to be the one in play, can be transmitted by traces left on surfaces.
The carrier of the virus, an American travelling by commercial airlines, arrived in Darwin via Canberra and Sydney where he had undergone quarantine. He travelled to Katherine by car.
Eight locations required visitors to register as “close” contacts, including two Qantas flights, a resort and two marts.
People required to register as “casual” contacts were at five locations, including an ATM, the Darwin Hilton and Woolworths.
The accuracy of the figures published yesterday depend on factors including these:-
• How complete are the names and phone numbers recorded at each location – in other words, how many people could be bothered to fill in the forms or record their presence by their COVID Safe app?
• CCTV footage.
• Credit card payments.
• Self reporting by travellers.
The question is, are the figures published by the government complete or are they including just the people for whom evidence is available?
And why was Alice Springs not also locked down so any arrivals from the north could be checked out?
While contact tracers were scurrying all over Darwin and Katherine, no such activity is occurring here, notwithstanding that the worst case scenario should always be assumed, as the Chief Minister and Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie always claim.
Are people in Alice Springs at risk because of the absence of specific information?
Says the Department of Health: “It is important people continue to review the public exposure sites as information is updated to make sure they are complying with the health directions as required.”
That means not only must people in Alice Springs, who have been to Katherine and Darwin at the critical times, keep abreast of declared sites. They must also make sure of the movements of others they may be in contact with.
PHOTO: High season for caravanners. How complete was their surveillance in connection with the outbreak? Did some head for Alice Springs before the lock-down boom was lowered?
This afternoon’s statistics are, according to COVID Media:
The Lockdown lifted in Greater Darwin from noon today but it has been extended in Katherine for an additional 24 hours until noon tomorrow, while we await further COVID-19 test results.
More than 2400 tests were undertaken across the NT yesterday, with all returning a negative result.
Our health teams have worked to trace, trap and test 87 close contacts. Close contacts are required to undertake 14 days of quarantine and will stay in quarantine even after lockdown ends.
As at 9am, a total of 626 casual contacts have been identified with 490 of these in Katherine. Of the casual contacts, 272 negative tests have been returned and 232 test results are pending. An additional 122 contacts are being followed up including 12 people from Katherine who need to be located.
Wastewater testing for Greater Darwin and Katherine have returned a positive result, but this was expected as the positive case spent time in both areas. The test results in the coming days will be an important indicator that we have contained the virus.