All workers throughout high-risk settings in the Northern Territory must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the Territory can change border policies, Prime Minister Michael Gunner announced.
- New COVID rules will be introduced in the NT once more than 80 percent of Territorians over 16 have been vaccinated
- Vaccination is mandatory for people working in high -risk settings
- Bursts can be managed with the new categories of green, orange and red quarantine zones, and lockouts and lockdowns.
The new rule forms part of the new phase of the reopening of the NT plan, which Mr Gunner said would involve “the strongest vaccination guidelines in Australia”.
High -risk workers include people who work directly with vulnerable people, such as teachers and child care workers, as well as health workers and people working in remote communities.
Quarantine and border control workers are considered high -risk, as are people on customer -facing roles in supermarkets, clothing stores, cafes, bars and restaurants.
People working in vital infrastructure, supply or logistics should also be fully vaccinated.
The date on which at -risk workers should be vaccinated has not yet been determined.
Under the new reopening requirements, more than 80 percent of the territories in each of the five regions must be fully vaccinated.
That means more than 80 percent of the population over 16 is fully vaccinated, each of the age cohorts is above or near 80 percent, remote communities reaching more than 80 percent vaccinated and a “strong and growing 12- to 15-year-old vaccination rates ”, Mr. Gunner said.
He said the NT government aims for more than 80 per cent of eligible Territorians to be fully vaccinated by the beginning of November, before taking further steps.
Next steps include changing the way the NT manages domestic borders, and its response to any future outbreaks in the Territory.
Tough border steps will remain for unvaccinated people trying to get to the NT, Mr. Gunner said, while there will be more freedoms for vaccinated people.
“Businesses and venues have the right to deny admission to unvaccinated people, whether or not there is an outbreak,” Mr. Gunner said, adding that that rule could be applied to sportsmen.
Rules in the green, orange and red zones
Once the Territory has reached the vaccination target, Mr. Gunner said the NT is likely to introduce quarantine categories of green, orange and red zones for those to come.
Policies will vary depending on a traveler’s immunization status.
Travelers green zone:
- people who come to the NT from any place that is not a designated COVID hotspot
- will allow free access to the NT, whether vaccinated or not
Orange zone travelers:
- people who come from an area considered a moderate risk of COVID. That may be caused by risk factors such as areas of exposure or detection of positive wastewater.
- will be asked to quarantine themselves at home or another appropriate address if they have been fully vaccinated, and will be allowed to leave their quarantine if they receive a negative test result
Red zone travelers:
- are people who come from an area designated a COVID hotspot
- will be allowed to quarantine themselves for 14 days at home or another appropriate address if they are fully vaccinated, rather than at supervised facilities such as Howard Springs
Unoccupied orange or red zone travelers without a prior approved reason for travel are prohibited from entering the NT, Mr. Gunner said.
Unvaccinated travelers who have an approved reason to travel will be required to quarantine at Howard Springs or another supervised facility at their own expense.
Lockouts and lockdowns
Mr. Gunner said lockdowns could still occur at the 80 percent vaccination rate.
However, a new version of a lockdown, called a “lockout”, can be used depending on the size and prevalence of a COVID outbreak.
Under a lockout, vaccinated people are free to work, shop, play and so on provided they wear a face mask.
Internal travel restrictions may be introduced to ensure that people from one outbreak zone do not carry the virus to other areas.
People who can be vaccinated, but choose not to, will be locked out of these freedoms, and will only be allowed to leave the home for five reasons.
That’s because those people would be at risk of catching COVID, most at risk of serious serious illness and most at risk of passing the infection on to others, Mr. Gunner said.
The NT government is working on new technology to allow lockouts to take place, as well as ensuring that people vaccinated without smartphones can get a Freedom Pass.
In remote communities, additional restrictions may be applied to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Territorians.
If vaccination rates remain low in some remote communities despite the best efforts of health organizations, the NT government may restrict travel to and from those areas.