Alice Springs will go into a “critical” 72-hour lockdown as a precautionary measure after a man who worked at a Northern Territory mine transitioned through the town’s airport before testing positive for Covid-19 in South Australia.
Alice Springs joins greater Sydney and surrounding regions, much of south-east Queensland and areas around Townsville, the Perth and Peel regions and greater Darwin in lockdown as the Delta variant of the coronavirus sweeps across the country.
The Northern Territory chief minister, Michael Gunner, said the lockdown in Alice Springs was being introduced despite no new locally-acquired cases as an “extreme precautionary measure”.
It comes after a Tanami Desert miner spent an “extended period of time” at Alice Springs airport on Friday 25 June before flying to Adelaide and testing positive alongside family members.
“It is unlikely that he was highly infectious during his time at Alice Springs airport,” Gunner said on Wednesday.
“But, like all other decisions, we will not take a punt on this. We will operate on the assumption that he was infectious while in the territory. Alice Springs area will now enter a lockdown for the next 72 hours to Saturday. The lockdown direction applies to everyone inside the Alice Springs town council boundaries – that includes town camps.”
Gunner urged locals not to panic or flood shops looking to buy groceries and essential goods. The chief minister said authorities were working to provide residents with what they needed.
“You are able to travel in and out of Alice for essentials. Do not panic. You will get your food. You will get your medicine. But if you usually live outside of Alice Springs, like in a community, but you are visiting in Alice right now, stay in Alice. Stay there, do not go home right now.”
Gunner said the lockdown was needed due to “the size of the exposure window and vulnerability of the local population”. “I will take no risk with that,” he said.
The South Australian premier, Steven Marshall, said his state would not be going into lockdown after recording five new locally-acquired cases linked to the Tanami Desert mine.
The miner who returned to Adelaide on Friday had isolated since Saturday. Although he initially tested negative, the miner, his wife and three of his four children all subsequently returned positive tests early on Wednesday.
“While this is a very concerning turn of events, having this Delta variant in South Australia, we are very relieved this person and this family have been at home since Saturday, very significantly reducing the risk to our state,” Marshall said.
South Australia’s chief health officer, Prof Nicola Spurrier, said everyone on the flight with the miner had been ordered to get tested and to isolate until they heard back from SA Health.
She said authorities were also working to care for the infected family’s pregnant dog. “We always come across hiccups. This family has a very nice dog but it is pregnant so I have a team sorting out the dog,” Spurrier said.
The premier said masks will be mandated in public and home gatherings will be limited to 10 people.
“We do know this Delta variant is particularly worrying, we see further deterioration of the situation around the country again today. We must all remain extraordinarily vigilant,” Marshall said.
New South Wales recorded 22 new locally-acquired cases as multiple hospital wards in Sydney were locked down after a student nurse tested positive on Tuesday night.
The nurse is believed to have worked at rehabilitation wards at Fairfield hospital and the cardiology and general abdominal surgery ward at the Royal North Shore hospital while infectious.
The NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said authorities were urgently testing and contact tracing anyone who may have come into contact with the nurse.
“The wards that that staff member worked at have been locked down, so that’s not taking any additional patients,” Chant said. “It’s much too early to tell whether we will have any transmission and we have taken a very broad infectious period because of our concern about the vulnerability of healthcare settings.” Chant was unsure if the nurse was vaccinated.
The state’s premier, Gladys Berejiklian, was also asked about the prime minister, Scott Morrison’s, announcement earlier this week that people under 40 could potentially access the AstraZeneca vaccine after her Queensland counterpart criticised the advice.
Berejiklian said NSW health services would not administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to under 40s.
“The New South Wales health system will continue to welcome people over 60 that want the AstraZeneca, will continue to welcome people who are having their second shot of AstraZeneca. Beyond that, you must go to your GP and get their advice,” the NSW premier said.
Of the 22 new locally acquired cases, 11 were in isolation throughout their entire infectious period, and five cases were in isolation for part of their infectious periods.
The new cases mean there have been 171 locally-acquired cases reported in the state since 16 June with 160 linked to the Bondi cluster.
Queensland recorded three new locally acquired cases including the brother of a 19-year-old Brisbane hospital receptionist who had tested positive.
Western Australia recorded one new locally-acquired case – a 37-year-old male who was still being interviewed by the state’s contact tracing team.
The WA premier, Mark McGowan, said although the source of his infection was still unknown, the man had been isolating for the entirety of his infectious period.
McGowan confirmed all the miners who have returned from the Northern Territory had so far tested negative and were all in quarantine.
“These results are very pleasing. We know this mine outbreak is currently causing significant problems in other jurisdictions around Australia,” the premier said.