Here’s What We Know About COVID-19 Lockdowns in Katherine and Robinson River

Greater Katherine and the remote community of Robinson River have both entered a three-day lockdown after two people tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

The lockdowns, which started at 6pm on Monday, are due to lift at 6pm on Thursday.

One of the new cases — a 30-year-old female resident of Robinson River — is believed to be the first case of COVID-19 in a Northern Territory remote community, which has long been a fear for health experts.

Here’s what we know about the new cases, and the response, so far.

What is known about the two new cases?

The first of the new cases is a 43-year-old Aboriginal man, who is fully vaccinated and has underlying health issues.

He lives in Katherine East, where he resides with seven other people, but he also spends time in the Robinson River community.

The man initially tested negative to COVID-19 on November 9, but was re-tested on November 13 and returned a positive result yesterday.

Health authorities say he may have been infectious since November 10.

The other new case is a 30-year-old Aboriginal woman who is unvaccinated.

She is a Robinson River resident and flew into the community on November 11.

The woman came forward for testing after showing symptoms, and tested positive yesterday.

It’s likely she has been infectious in the Robinson River community since November 11.

She is expected to be flown to Darwin for treatment.

Are new cases connected to last week’s Darwin/ Katherine cluster?

Chief Minister Michael Gunner has said that, while it’s likely the new cases are linked to the recent Darwin/ Katherine cluster, there is a “small possibility” they are unconnected and there has been seeding in Katherine.

That’s because there isn’t yet any clear link between the first case detected yesterday — the 43-year-old man — and previous cases that were part of the cluster.

Authorities are also unsure if they’re related because of the length of time that’s passed between last week’s cases and these ones, as the early cases were not out in the community after November 4.

Because of this, they can’t yet say whether the COVID viral fragments recently detected in Katherine wastewater samples came from the new cases.

What’s happening in Katherine?

The Greater Katherine region is now in a 72-hour lockdown, which started at 6pm yesterday.

Residents will have to follow the same rules that were in place during the Katherine lockdown a week ago, and roadblocks have been put in place.

Authorities are also urging any residents or recent visitors to Katherine who are showing COVID-19 symptoms to come forward and get tested, after the town recorded low testing numbers over the weekend.

The town centre of the Northern Territory town of Katherine, on a sunny day.
Katherine is expected to be in lockdown until 6pm on Thursday.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

What’s happening in Robinson River?

The Robinson River community and surrounding homeland communities are also in a 72-hour lockdown, as of 6pm yesterday.

An eight-person rapid assessment team, made up of health experts and police officers, has been flown into the community to test, vaccinate and otherwise support residents.

Mr Gunner has said the team is aiming to test every resident within the next few days, and is also bringing extra vaccines so that any community member who wants one can get the jab.

The team is also contacting and offering support to surrounding homeland communities part of the lockdown.

According to NT government figures, Robinson River currently has a first-dose vaccination rate of 77 per cent and full vaccination rate of 60 per cent, both of which are higher than those of some other remote Territory communities.

What about Borroloola?

Borroloola, a large remote community near Robinson River, is not currently in lockdown nor under any restrictions.

Acting Chief Health Officer Charles Pain has said this is because no positive cases have been recorded in the community and movement between it and Robinson River have been limited due to road conditions.

However, Borroloola residents are being urged to stay put in the community for the next three days to help reduce the risk of transmission.

What are the lockdown rules?

Under the lockdown restrictions in Greater Katherine, Robinson River and surrounds, people can only leave their homes for one of five reasons.

These reasons are:

  • To receive medical treatment, including a COVID-19 test or vaccine
  • To access essential goods and services
  • To do essential work that can’t be done from home
  • To do one hour of outdoor exercise a day, within 5 kilometres from your home, with people from your house or one other person
  • To provide care and support to a family member or a person who can’t support themselves.

People are not permitted to travel outside of a lockdown area unless they have an exemption.

A young woman in a face mask
Strict mask rules will apply in Greater Katherine and Robinson River throughout the lockdown period.(ABC News: Liz Pickering)

What are the rules around face masks? Have they changed?

A mask mandate has been in place in Katherine since the town came out of a lockout last Monday and, while that mandate is still in place, the rules are now a bit stricter.

The same mandate has also been extended to Robinson River and surrounding homeland areas.

People now have to wear a mask whenever they leave their homes, not just when they can’t socially distance.

However, Dr Pain said, masks can be removed if you’re doing “vigorous exercise”.

Not wearing a mask when you’re supposed to could come with a hefty price tag — the penalty is a $5,000 fine.

Are there any exposure sites?

Northern Territory authorities were still working to identify exposure sites last night.

Four exposure sites were listed on the government’s coronavirus website late yesterday. They are:

  • Katherine: Kirby’s Pub in the Katherine Hotel, on Wednesday, November 10 between 10am to 6pm
  • Katherine: Kirby’s Pub in the Katherine Hotel, on Friday, November 12 between 12pm and 4.30pm
  • Katherine: Captain Jack’s Fish’n’chips, on Monday, November 15 between 12pm and 12.35pm
  • Katherine: Wurli Wurlinjang Health Service (main clinic), on Friday, November 15 between 10am and 11.45am.

An up-to-date list of exposure sites can be found on the Northern Territory government’s coronavirus website.

What else do we know?

According to the government’s coronavirus website, in Katherine schools and childcare centres will only be open for the children of essential workers during the lockdown period.

In Robinson River, the school and early childhood services will be closed.

Most businesses in both locations will be required to close.

This includes retail outlets, gyms, pools and community centres.

Cafes and restaurants will be able to offer takeaway and delivery, but not dine-in service.

People will need to check in, either using the Territory Check-In App or manually, at any venue they visit.


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