COVID here to stay: NT chief minister

COVID-zero no longer exists as a strategy or as a reality, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner says.
COVID-zero no longer exists as a strategy or as a reality, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner says.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner has warned Northern Territorians that COVID-19 cannot be defeated and they should prepare for life with the virus.

A revised suppression strategy will focus on how fast the disease is spreading and where not case numbers.

"We can't completely eliminate COVID from the community," Mr Gunner told reporters on Tuesday.

"We are at a point where COVID-zero no longer exists as a strategy or as a reality. This is part of our new normal in the territory".

Mr Gunner said virus elimination had never been the NT's goal "but it was our reality for a long time".

"As the past month has shown that is very difficult and probably impossible to achieve," he said, referring to the current 61 case outbreak that spread from the town of Katherine to three Aboriginal communities.

Under the revised virus suppression plan, new cases will no longer automatically lead to lockdowns or lockouts being imposed.

Authorities will focus on where cases are occurring, who is infected, and whether there are vulnerable community members involved when considering what action to take.

It comes as the NT prepares to further relax its restrictions on December 20 when quarantine requirements for fully-vaccinated travellers will end.

"We cannot wait for COVID to completely disappear before removing restrictions because we would be waiting forever," Mr Gunner said.

"We are going to learn to live with this thing as safely as possible."

Meanwhile, 95 per cent of Territorians aged 16 and over have had one vaccine dose and 91 per cent are fully vaccinated, according to NT Health.

"An amazing result," Mr Gunner said.

No new infections were detected in the NT in the 24 hours to midnight on Monday.

But more cases linked to a three-year-old girl who was diagnosed with the virus in Katherine, 320km south of Darwin, on Sunday are expected.

Health workers have identified 30 close contacts across three households.

Seven have been moved to The Centre for National Resilience quarantine facility in Howard Springs, south of Darwin.

The toddler remains in a stable condition in Royal Darwin Hospital.

Authorities have repeatedly declined to say why she was admitted for treatment.

Wastewater testing in Katherine has also returned strong positive results, which are likely to be linked to the three households.

Despite this, the lockout in Katherine and the nearby Binjari and Rockhole Aboriginal communities will end at midday tomorrow.

But face masks will need to be worn in most public places for the next week.

Wastewater in Lajamanu, 900km south of Darwin, has tested negative again and the lockout in the community of about 606 has ended.

Australian Associated Press