Contact tracking underway following Northern Territory COVID-19 case leaves lockdown in Binjari for Katherine

Northern Territory’s current COVID-19 eruption hit one of the most worrying moments today.

Authorities said a woman from the remote community of Binjari, 16 kilometers southwest of Katherine, had tested positive for coronavirus.

But when they went to find her in Binjari, which is under heavy blockade, she was not there.

Police are standing under a gazebo near a street sign pointing to Binjari
The Binjari community is located 16 kilometers southwest of Katherine.(ABC News: Kate Ashton)

Instead, she was found in Katherine, unaware that she had COVID-19, where authorities fear she was contagious for hours.

Here’s what we know about the positive case that set in motion a hectic police investigation and could have significant consequences for the Greater Katherine area, where thousands are in a prolonged blockade.

Where did the woman go?

The rough timeline, which was presented by the police commissioner this morning, has prompted the woman to leave Binjari along with three other residents last night.

“We understand that it began during the darkness of last night,” said Commissioner Jamie Chalker.

He said police were now conducting interviews and tracking down possible contacts to determine the group’s exact movements.

However, police know the group went to a caravan park, called a taxi and were found by police in a public residential property along Victoria Highway.

Police are walking through a lawn at a block of flats on Victoria Highway.
Police say the woman was found in a public apartment block on Victoria Highway.(ABC News: Jesse Thompson)

ABC has spoken to the manager at Manbulloo Homestead and Caravan Park, the nearest accommodation to Binjari, about 5 km away from the community.

She said police visited the park at 8:30 p.m. Monday night, searched for people from the local community and asked if they had seen any taxis in the area.

Despite the fact that no specific areas have been identified yet, Mr Gunner said today that the woman was “at large in Katherine [while] she was contagious “for up to 12 hours.

Aboriginal leaders have described in detail the unique challenges posed to residents of remote communities during hard barricades, and police said it was not known why the woman violated health instructions and left the community.

Who else is affected?

Even before contact trace elements identify potential exposure sites, at least 11 people are now in close contact with the woman.

It is the three who left Binjari along with the woman, all of whom could face fines of $ 5,024, Commissioner Chalker said.

Seven other people from the public housing block on Victoria Highway where the woman was found are also now close contacts.

The last one is the taxi driver.

“The taxi will be off the road until it undergoes a full cleanup before it can go into operation again,” said Commissioner Chalker.

When did the police know that the group was leaving Binjari?

There is a lack of details on the police search, but Commissioner Chalker said police resources “had to be redirected to focus on the four who left the Binjari community overnight”.

Sir. Gunner said that “every police resource on hand was thrown after this to locate the case” once the positive test had been identified.

When did the woman test positive?

Mr. Gunner said her positive test was confirmed this morning.

The woman was then found by police just before 11 a.m. this morning, Commissioner Chalker said.

What are the police doing?

Commissioner Chalker indicated that NT police had “sent more people” to Binjari after the incident, which was the second time residents had fled the hard-hitting barricade.

“There will be some more [resources] going down there to make sure we have an appropriate fatigue management in place, “he said.

What has fallen down?

Authorities have expressed disappointment because the actions could endanger others and prolong a lockdown for thousands of people in the Greater Katherine area.

“We must now find out all those she has been with and work through to at least day five [test] results to understand if they are also positive, “said Commissioner Chalker.

Restrictions in Katherine are currently set to last until at least December 4th.

“Unfortunately, today’s positive cause can reset that clock for Katherine’s people because it’s a positive cause in society,” Mr Gunner said.

“It is usually 14 days from the last known potential transfer [case] in their community, then a cycle of replication [before a lockdown lifts]. “

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