After nine new Covid-19 cases were identified in the community of Binjari, the Australian army began forcibly removing residents in the Northern Territories to the Howard Springs quarantine camp located in Darwin. Hard lockdowns were instituted in Binjari and Rockhole on Saturday night prior to the transfers.
Northern Territory chief minister, Michael Gunner, said “Residents of Binjari and Rockhole no longer have the five reasons to leave their homes.” He made the comment referring to the country’s five allowable reasons to avoid lockdown: buying food and supplies, exercising for up to two hours, care or caregiving, work or education if it cannot be done from home, and to get vaccinated at the closest possible location.
“They can only leave for medical treatment, in an emergency, or as required by law,” he added. “It’s highly likely that more residents will be transferred to Howard Springs today, either as positive cases or close contacts,” he continued. “We have already identified 38 close contacts from Binjari but that number will go up. Those 38 are being transferred now.”
Gunner also said he had been in contact with the Prime Minister regarding the measure. “I contacted the Prime Minister last night. We are grateful for the support of about 20 ADF personnel, as well as army trucks to assist with the transfer of positive cases and close contacts – and to support the communities,” he said. “We are doing an assessment today of what extra resources we might need from the Feds, and the Prime minister is ready to help further – I thank him for that.”
The nine new cases in Binjari include five men and four women, one of who is 78-years-old and has been transported to Darwin Hospital. Zero new Covid-19 cases were reported on Sunday, but Minister Gunner said his concern was about “mingling between households” in Binjari and Rockhole, where the populations are around 220 and 130 respectively. Gunner said on Sunday, “Yes, these are strong measures, but the threat to lives is extreme.”